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MAJOR-GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 



THE LIFE OF 

ISRAEL PUTNAM 



By GEORGE CANNING HILL 



EDITED WITH NOTES 



By henry KETCHAM 




WITH ILLUSTRATIONS 



"A man whose generosity was singular, whose honesty 
was proverbiaL" 



A, L, BURT COMPANY, ^ J- ^ ^ 
J. Ji J. PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK 






THE LiBRAHY OF 
CONORESS 

Two Copies Recsived 

JUN 23 1903 

Copyi.glH br.try 

cuss <X^ XXc Nc. 

COPY 3. 



Copyright, 1903, 
liAJ L. BURT COMPANY. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAFTER rAOS 

I. Early Life 7 

II. The French War 27 

III. Continuation of the French War 50 

IV. Campaign of 1758 67 

V. End of the French War 93 

VI. Opening of the Revolution 106 

Vn. Battle of Bunker Hill 133 

VIII. Siege of Boston 158 

IX. Operations in New York 173 

X. Retreat of the American Army 191 

XI. In the Highlands 212 

XII. Putnam at West Point and Danbury 235 

XIII. His Last Days 249 

XIV. Conclusion 263 



PREFACE. 



This biography is written with the following pur- 
poses in mind: — To furnish from the pages of the 
world's history an example of true manhood, lofty 
purpose, and persevering effort, such as may be safely 
held up either for the admiration or emulation of 
the youth of the present day ; 

To clear away, in his treatment of this subject, 
whatever mistiness and mustiness may have accumu- 
lated with time about them, presenting to the mental 
vision fresh and living pictures, that shall seem to be 
clothed with naturalness, and energy, and vitality ; 

To offer no less instruction to the minds, than 
pleasure to the imaginations of the many for whom 
he has taken it in hand to write ; 

And, more especially, perhaps, to familiarize the 
youth of our day with some of those striking and 
manly characters, that have long ago made their mark, 
deep and lasting, on the history and fortunes of the 
American Continent. 

The deeds of these men, it is true, are to be found 
abundantly recorded in Histories; but they lie so 

iii 



iv PREFACE. 

scattered along their ten thousand pages, and are so 
intermixed with the voluminous records of other mat- 
ters, as to be practically out of the reach of the 
younger portion of readers, and so of the very ones 
for whom this book has been especially undertaken. 
These want only pictures of actual life; and if, the 
author shall, in any due degree, succeed even in 
sketching interesting outlines, he will feel that he is 
answering the very purpose that has long lain un- 
performed within his heart. 



INTRODUCTION 



The purpose of this introductory chapter is to 
set forth briefly some of the circumstances of the 
ordinary life, under which the heroes of the Revolu- 
tion grew up to manhood. In order to secure an ac- 
curate and vivid picture of the Revolutionary war, 
or of the men of that period, it is necessary to keep 
in mind the conditions of life that then prevailed. 
What is called the historical imagination is by no 
means common, even among the educated; and that 
would be a rare child who could keep before his mind 
the conditions of a century and a half ago, while 
reading a history of the French war. A mile is a 
mile, both in the eighteenth and in the twentieth cen- 
tury. At the same time good roads shorten the dis- 
tance, and a trip fi'om JSTew York to Boston, or 
from Pomfret to either city, over roads good 
enough for bicycling, is very different from the same 
trip over the imperfect roads that existed in Putnam's 
day. On the other hand, at a time when almost every 

V 



Vi INTRODUCTION, 

one was accustomed to ride long distances on horse- 
back, that method of travel would be far easier than 
to the average citizen who to-day rarely sits astride a 
horse. The reader is always likely to forget, for the 
time being, such facts as these, though he knows them 
well ; and thus the reading of the history may convey 
a false impression. 

The farm life of the eighteenth century was cer- 
tainly crude when compared with that of to-day. As 
for cities, there were then no cities of the sort prevail- 
ing in the twentieth century. Iron and steel were 
costly, and the latter was for the most part poor in 
quality. Steel plows were unknown for nearly a 
century after Putnam began to work his farm. 
Shovels were home-made, and the blade was usually 
of M'ood. Houses were almost entirely home-made. 
The owner, sometimes with and sometimes without 
the help of his hired men, would hew out suitable 
timbers for the frames and join them ; then the entire 
neighborhood would be invited to a " raising," at 
which the timbers would be hoisted and firmly se- 
cured in place, and the day would close M'ith eating 
and drinking, especially the latter, and with general 
jollity. The frame of the building was thus in posi- 
tion, and the owner could cover it with boards at leis- 
ure. In many a home the clothing was made from 
start to finish by the farmer and his wife. The sheep 



INTRODUCTION. yii 

were raised and sheared, and the avooI was carded by 
the husband. Then the wife spun, and wove the 
wool into cloth, took the measurements, and made the 
clothing, to the last stitch. The charitable mind will 
not inquire too closely into the finish of the goods, or 
the style of the design, or the accuracy of the fit. 
It is enough to know that the work was all done in 
the family. 

The farmer dug his own well, made his own buck- 
ets, tended and doctored his domestic animals, was 
amateur butcher, lived mainly from what he raised. 
Horses were shod, and that at considerable expense, 
by the blacksmith ; but the wagons were largely made 
and kept in repair at home. The excess of farm pro- 
duce was either bartered or sold outright, usually the 
former. Thus every family was in large measure 
complete in itself and independent of all the world 
outside. The difficulties of transportation acted as 
a high tariff and effectually protected and encouraged 
infant industries. In all this life, the demands on the 
wife were not less various than those on the husband. 
The mother was baker, cook, tallow chandler, weaver, 
tailor, nurse, teacher, and much else besides; and in 
addition to all the duties that by tradition are sup- 
posed to belong to womankind, she not infrequently 
lent a hand in the garden and field, and in the care 
of the domestic animals. The " men folks," too, ac- 



Viii INTRODUCTION. 

quired some versatility ; for, in case of illness or other 
disability, they could not send off and on short 
notice obtain trained nurse or cook, but were required 
to do the pressing duties for themselves, or go with- 
out. 

These facts brought many advantages and many 
disadvantages. The home-made tools and clothing 
were by no means equal in quality to those which to- 
day may be purchased at a low cost. Xor were the 
products of the farm such as would now be exhibited 
at agricultural fairs. The pork was largely of the 
" razor-back " variety. Horses were not thorough- 
bred. The other animals and the poultry were, to 
say the best, of ordinary excellence. The apples, 
plums, pears, and grapes, were sour and hardly worth 
the picking. Tomatoes were then unknown. One 
might thus go through the entire list of the farmer's 
possessions and products and find that at every point 
they would make a sorry comparison with what we 
see to-day, and one wonders how they endured such 
disadvantages. 

Let it be remembered also that the crude conditions 
of the farm life were no more marked than those in 
other departments of activity. There were no large 
factories to supply products of industry in fabulous 
quantities: no watch factories, no sewing machines, 
no great mills. In commerce it was the same. 



INTRODUCTION. ix 

Pranklin, who sold his books and papers, first wrote 
them, then set the type, then printed them by a hand 
press. To go back a century and a half into that 
form of culture, would be like stepping into another 
world. 

But there is another side to that sort of life, and 
that concerns its educational influence, its enormous 
value in developing men. There were few books, 
magazines, and newspapers ; but the daily duties gave 
food for thought. To-day a man is supposed to be 
master of one trade, a machinest will spend his life 
at one kind of work. The work is surely well done, 
but the mind of the worker is not broadened. When 
the worker had to do everything by his own hand and 
brain, the work was crude but the man was developed 
both in intelligence and character. There was 
slight knowledge of literature, the " three great Rs " 
constituted almost a literary education ; but the 
thrift, the self-control and reliance, the industry, and 
all the qualities that go to make a true and sterling 
manhood, were great. 

Those who to-day go from the centers of cul- 
ture to the frontier may see, to a certain extent, how 
the demands of the circumstances of the latter tend to 
develop a high grade of intelligence and the essentials 
of a manly character. The speech may be a dialect, 
the dress uncouth, and the manners the reverse of 



X INTRODUCTION. 

winsome ; but these frontiersmen frequently manifest 
a high degree of general intelligence. Be it remem- 
bered that every state in the Union was builded by 
men who were frontiersmen in their day. "Not only 
the original thirteen are a credit to their builders, 
but all the rest, from the Ohio river to the Pacific 
ocean, are an undeniable evidence of the practical 
wisdom of men who, far from the centers of 
wealth, commerce, culture, have received that edu- 
cation which comes from the practical necessities 
of poverty upon the frontier. 

The armies, or the soldiers, we see to-day are well 
clothed, well fed, well armed, and well disciplined. 
These facts are so intimately connected with our ideas 
of what military life is, that it is hard to imagine 
an army from which all these are conspicuously ab- 
sent. The revolutionary soldiers had bravery, intel- 
ligence, and independence — in fact the men were 
often far too independent for the general good ! — but 
in appearance they were a motley crowd. In the 
main " the embattled farmers " were clothed after 
the manner of farmers, and a battalion contained 
within itself all the varieties suggested by the famous 
coat of many colors, but with none of its beauties. 
Where there were uniforms, there were not enough 
to go around, and so that did not materially better 
the situation. The guns, too, were such as the men 



INTRODUCTION. xi 

previously owned or could get. There were compan- 
ies of militia, but their annual drill on the village 
green did not furnish training enough to be of mate- 
rial value. We may assume that in that war, as in al- 
most every other, the majority of the private soldiers 
were either boys or very young men. The young are 
peculiarly susceptible to the show of military 
pomp, and of such pomp the patriot army had noth- 
ing; there was nothing to appeal to this spectacular 
sense, which counts for so much in war. 

To be more specific, we may enumerate some of 
the most prominent of the difficulties that met the 
generals and other commanders of that day. The 
first was found in the enforcement of discipline. The 
perfect soldier is and should be, up to a certain point, 
a machine. " Theirs not to make a reply, theirs not 
to reason why." The one duty is obedience. This 
sort of soldier is precisely what the average American 
was not. The whole training of the people was in the 
direction of individualism, and personal freedom, 
and the patriotic youth was always asking why. For 
this they or their fathers had left the mother country 
to make homes in the howling wilderness. This was 
further enforced by their theology, their civic train- 
ing, and their personal habits. It was therefore im- 
possible for the officers to issue peremptory orders ac- 
cording to military methods. If the orders did not 



Xii INTRODUCTION. 

meet with the approval of the privates, they were ig- 
nored. These same privates had earnest opinions on 
all questions that came up, and when matters did not 
meet their approval they would simply leave the army 
and go back to the farm or shop: in technical lan- 
guage, they deserted. There was no method of en- 
forcing orders, such as is possessed by officers of a reg- 
ular army, and the officers were sorely handicapped 
by reason of this state of affairs. 

Another difficulty of the officers was found in the 
chronic lack of money. When men are not promptly 
paid either in factory, army, or any other place, there 
is sure to be violent outbreaks of discontent. These 
soldiers were suffering, they had been promised the 
money and they needed it, — they needed it both for 
themselves and for their families. They thought of 
the legislators as keeping the money for themselves, 
and in Connecticut they actually started for the cap- 
ital to raid the legislature. The patience and per- 
sonal influence of the commanders was put to a severe 
test to keep the men in comparative order. Then 
there was constant need of supplies. Some clothing 
must be bought, some food must be paid for. Powder 
was never abundant in the patriot army, and at one 
time it ran so nearly out that, had all the army been 
engaged at once, there was not enough left for a day's 
fighting. Making bricks without straw is a simple 



INTRODUCTION. xiii 

proposition when compared with carrying on a long 
and important war without money. 

A third difficulty of the times was the intermix- 
ture of Tories and spies with the patriots. The coun- 
try at large was patriotic, but there were Tories 
enough to make a great deal of trouble. Generally 
speaking, the men of wealth, the successful men of 
business, and consequently the men of influence, were 
on the Tory side. These claimed, and very plausibly, 
to have particular regard for the laws. They were 
quick to note any infringement of their rights and 
eager to demand reparation. That they did not 
equally recognize or respect the rights of others did 
not disturb them. Consistency is too rare a jewel to 
be of service in time of war. There were then, as 
there always is, a large number of unprincipled men 
who are willing to serve on one side or the other as 
fancy or the prospect of gain may indicate. The con- 
ditions were then favorable for the vocation of the 
spy, and the army was never free from his interfer- 
ence. Cooper's historical novel The Spy, especially 
the closing portion, sets forth in picturesque manner 
the conditions which were most depressing. In the 
patriot army there were large numbers of officers of 
high station, like Benedict Arnold, who were ready 
to sell out at a convenient time. 

There is a fact which is so slight as to escape th© 



xiv INTRODUCTION. 

attention of most readers, but which is of sufficient 
importance to note here. It is that the patriots had 
no flag. Even after the stars and stripes were devised 
by Mrs. Betsey Ross, which was not until the year 
1777, it had none of the associations to the men of 
that day which it has to us who have learned; to con- 
nect it in thought with all that is noble and glorious 
in patriotic history. We became familiar with the 
beautiful emblem in our infancy, we early learned to 
praise it in song and poem, we have read thrilling 
stories of the men who have fought, bled, and died 
for it, and the very sight of it, floating over school- 
house, fort, or vessel, rouses a noble and patriotic 
feeling in our souls. This feeling is consonant with 
the profound facts and verities of human nature. It 
is found in all countries, it touches all ranks and 
classes of people, it is an inspiration to all military 
glory. The citizen resents an insult to the flag, the 
orator praises the flag, the soldier follows the flag 
" into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell," and 
he is content to have his lifeless body buried under 
the flag. But the patriots had no flag. Their early 
associations were with the British emblem, and 
against it they were now armed and arrayed. They 
lacked a most important means of help. 

The element of personal influence is nearly the 
same in all ages, and this was an important fact in 



INTRODUCTION. XV 

the stirring events of the pre-revoliitionary period. 
Putnam's thrift, good sense, and success as a pioneer 
farmer in Connecticut, gave him an imusual influence 
with his neighbors. His good fellowship won him 
many friends. The population of his community was 
scant, but he was beyond question a leader of the 
people. He was nearly forty years old when he took 
part in the French-Indian war, and his daring at 
that time greatly increased the honor in which he was 
held. During the period of popular discontent just 
previous to the outbreak of the revolution, he was one 
of the most conspicuous men in his colony. He was 
approaching sixty years of age when the battle of 
Bunker Hill was fought, and his conduct there shows 
that he was as fiery and impetuous as when in his 
'teens. Confidence begets confidence, and enthusiasm 
kindles enthusiasm. Though the rank and file did 
not always follow their leader, they conducted them- 
selves far better than they would or could have done 
in his absence ; and after that battle he was a greater 
power than ever. 

The battle of Bunker Hill was fought June 17, 
1775. At that date Putnam was not in commission. 
The American soldiers were volunteers in a sense 
far more complete than the technical meaning of the 
word conveys. It was not until July 2, or two full 
weeks after the battle, that Washington reached Cam- 



xvi INTRODUCTION. 

bridge, bringing with him commissions for four 
Major-Generals who haci been appointed by the Con- 
tinental Congress on June 17 and 19. The names, 
and the order of precedence, of these four, were 
as follows: Artemas Ward, Charles Lee, Philip 
Schuyler, and Israel Putnam. Washington, who had 
these commissions in his possession, was invested 
with a certain discretionary power as to delivering 
them. Upon his arrival at Cambridge he found so 
much of discontent and mutual criticisms among the 
patriots that he deemed it wise to withhold, for a 
time, all the commissions except Putnam's. His was 
the only one that was delivered at once. The others 
received their commissions shortly afterwards. One 
by one they dropped out of the war until after the 
battle of Monmouth in 1778, when Lee, being tried 
by court-martial for disobedience of orders, was sus- 
pended for a year. This left Putnam the ranking 
Major-General of the army. Even he was not in 
active service at the close of the war, having been dis- 
abled by paralysis. 



GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 



CHAPTEE I. 

EAKLY LIFE. 

jiLMOST every popular favorite lias his nickname. 
They called General Jackson "Old Hickory ; " Gen- 
eral Taylor was known everywhere through the camp 
by the name of " Old Zack; " * and, not to interpose 
too many instances between our own times and his, 
General Israel Putnam, of Revolutionary memory, 
was better known by the whole army under the famil- 

* The civil war of 1861-5 developed many such nick- 
names. General Grant was " Unconditional Surrender; " 
General Thomas, "the Rock of Chickamauga; " General 
Logan, "the War Eagle;" General Hooker, "fighting Joe 
Hooker; " General Sheridan was always called by his first 
name, Phil. 

Lincoln was called "old Abe;" Blaine, "the Plumed 
Knight; " Thurman, "the old Roman; " Reed, "the Czar." 
It is a trait of the American people, more than of other 
peoples, to modify the names of its successful men. When 
they cannot find a taking epithet, they use the first name, 
or an abbreviation of it, such as Abe and Phil. 

7 



g LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

iar title of " Old Put " than either by the military 
rank he had honestly earned, or the simple Scriptural 
name his father and mother gave him. 

Israel Putnam was a marked character in days 
when it would api^ear as if almost every man stood 
out as an exemplar. He lived in stirring times, and 
was not a whit behind the rest in helping to create 
the stir. Pew among the long roll of the patriots 
of the Revolution, addressed themselves to the great 
questions, as they came up, with greater zeal than he, 
or with a more stout and rugged determination to 
secure peace on the basis of simple justice. It must 
be allowed, too, that he had a strong love for adven- 
ture in his nature, and was as ready at any time for 
a warlike foray, or a dangerous expedition into a 
wilderness swarming with Indians, as he was for a 
frolic at harvest-time, or an exciting wolf-hunt with 
the young farmers in midwinter. Tlie life of Put- 
nam was a romance almost from the beginning; yet 
no one was apparently better contented than he amid 
the peaceful scenes of the country life of those days, 
or enjoyed himself more in the quiet atmosphere of 
his farm, his home, and his friends. In this respect 
he might be said, like some other men, to have had 
two natures: one continually exciting him to action 
and deeds of boldness and bravery, and the other tem- 
pering him down to the tone of those homely, every- 



EARLY LIFE. 9 

day joys that, after all, are the richest resources a 
man's heart ever knows. 

Israel Putnam was born in Salem, Mass., on the 
Tth day of January, 1718. His mother * had twelve 
children, of whom he was the eleventh in order. The 
house still stands in which he was born, and is ex- 
actly half-way, on the turnpike, between Kewbury- 
port and Boston. The family emigrated from one of 
the southern counties of England, in the year 1634, 
and settled in that part of Salem, known as Danvers. 
The original family name was spelled Puttenham, 
instead of Putnam. Israel was the great-grandson of 
the one who first planted the name in that part of the 
country, Mr. John Putnam ; his father's Christian 
name being Joseph, his grandfather's Thomas, and 
his great-grandfather's John as just mentioned, 

Israel was a courageous boy, and many daring acts 
of his youth are preserved by tradition among the 
different branches of the old family stock. He loved 
adventure and excitement, and was apt to be foremost 
in those bold and reckless undertakings for which 

* Putnam's mother's mother was Elizabeth Hathorne. 
Her father, William Hathorne, came to this country in 
1630, and after a short residence at Dorchester, now a part 
of Boston, settled permanently in Salem. A lineal descend- 
ant of this puritan, Nathaniel Hawthorne (note the change 
in the spelling of the name) described this William as the 
" grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progen- 
itor, who came so early, with his bible and his sword." 



10 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

boys are generally so ready. His early education 
was limited, as one must readily infer when one re- 
flects that schools of any kind were not a common 
privilege in those days. The population was very 
much scattered, instead of being gathered into towns 
and villages as now, and good schools would have been 
quite difficult to support. Besides, as he was brought 
up, the most of his time was required on the farm, 
helping about the regular work in such ways as boys 
of his age are taught and expected to do. Had his 
education been different when he was young, there is 
no doubt that he would have wrought with a still 
wider influence on the minds of the men of the Revo- 
lution. But it was sufficient proof of his inherent 
strength and greatness, that he rose, as he did, su- 
perior to all the obstacles that he found in his path, 
and wrote his own name legibly on the page of his 
country's history. It is not every man, even with 
the aid of many more advantages than he enjoyed, 
who succeeds in doing what he did for his country- 
men and himself. 

We said that he was courageous, and sometimes 
reckless, when a boy, but his disposition was not 
quarrelsome. When he was assailed, he stood liis 
ground without flinching; but he was not in the habit 
of picking quarrels with any one. When he went 
up to Boston for the first time in his life, one of the 



EARLY LIFE. 11 

young town-fellows, a great deal older and bigger 
than himself,* saw him coming along the street in 
his dress of plain homespun, staring at the signs and 
the windows, and taken up, as almost every true rus- 
tic is, at least once, with what he saw and heard 
around him ; and, thinking to have some fun out of 
the country fellow, he taunted him with his dress, his 
gait, his manners, and his general appearance. 
Young Putnam hore it as well and as long as he 
could. He looked around and saw that a crowd had 
collected, who seemed to be enjoying themselves at 
his expense. His blood rose at length, and he de- 
termined to submit no longer. Suddenly he turned 
upon the ill-mannered city youth, and gave him such 
a thorough flogging on the spot as not only silenced 
his impudence, but likewise drew forth the instant 
admiration of the crowd, who were, but a moment be- 
fore, so willing to enjoy his own humiliation. This 
single little affair was wholly characteristic of tho 
man, as he afterwards showed himself on a wider 
theatre. 

Very few incidents of a well-defined and authentic 
nature, have come down to us in illustration of the 
boyhood of Putnam ; indeed, when we consider that 
he was nothing more than a plain farmer's boy, of 
whom no one ever thought, except as other boys were 

• Headley says this boy was twice his size and age. 



12 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

commonly thought of, whose advantages were few, 
and whose education was limited, who had no other 
aim in life than simply to do his work well and make 
as respectable a man as his father before him, — it 
is evident that few facts could have accumulated at 
the most, going to show his native superiority to 
anybody else of his own age and condition. It was 
after he made himself conspicuous in the eyes of his 
countrymen, that his relatives began to collect such 
scanty materials relating to his youth as family tra- 
dition chanced to have handed down ; not happening 
to have been born great, or renowned, of course no 
record was kept of those early years before he 
achieved for himself what he afterwards so honorably 
did achieve.* 



* Among the stories of the boyhood and youth of Israel 
Putnam, some are worth preserving. At the early age 
when boys delight in hunting birds' nests, he was so un- 
fortunate as to fall from a tree by the breaking of a limb; 
before he reached the ground his trousers caught on a 
projecting branch, and he hung, head downward, in a posi- 
tion that was equally uncomfortable and unsafe. He called 
on his companions to release him by shooting the branch 
so as to cut it in two. The boys demurred, fearing they 
would shoot him, until he assured them that he would 
take all the risk. This assurance steadied their nerves, 
and the shot carried true; the branch was severed and the 
boy was released. 

Later, he tamed a fractious bull by a unique treatment. 
Arming himself with a pair of cruel spurs, he mounted 
astride the bull, struck his spurs vigorously into the sides 



EARLY LIFE. 13 

He was twenty-one years old when he was married, 
which event occurred in the year 1739.* His wife 
was Miss Hannah Pope, whose father — Mr. John 
Pope — lived in Salem also; and their family after- 
wards counted four sons and six daughters, f The 
year after he married, he emigrated from Salem to 
tlie town of Pomfret, in Connecticut, where he had 
bought a tract of land for the purpose. The part of 

of the furious animal, and rode him until the bull was 
completely tired out and subdued. 

Grim was the humor he displayed in connection with 
the negro, " Cudge." The master — for slavery obtained 
in New England at that period — called in Israel Putnam 
to help him chastise the insubordinate slave. The negro 
was first to be tied so as to make the process of whipping 
easier. Putnam, however, slipped the rope over both mas- 
ter and slave, bound them firmly together, then drew taut 
the other end of the rope, which had been thrown over a 
beam in the barn, tied the men up, and then left them 
to settle matters with each other. The negro, naturally 
enough, was the first to see the fun in the affair, but 
finally the saving sense of humor penetrated also the white 
man's intelligence. The affair was settled satisfactorily to 
all parties concerned, and discipline was fully restored 
without the use of the lash. 

* Before Israel was of age, he assumed the care of the 
Salem farm. This was the more significant as he was the 
youngest but one of the family of twelve children. He 
built for himself a house upon the portion of the farm that 
was set apart for himself. He was thus an independent 
farmer before his marriage, which took place when he was 
twenty-one years of age. 

t The first son, named Israel for his father, was born 
in this farm house in Salem. The other children were 
born in Connecticut, 



14 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Pomfret in which he settled is now included in tKe 
pleasant little inland town of Brooklyn; and the 
outlines of the foundation of his house are still to be 
distinctly traced in the turf, together with the raised 
walk up to the door. The well he digged is yet 
pointed out, though it is not at present used ; and in 
one of the old elm trees that stood before his door, 
are the iron staples on which he hung the tavern sign, 
just before the Revolutionary days, to inform travel- 
lers that he could temporarily entertain both them- 
selves and their beasts. 

There was no better farmer in his day, the whole 
country round than young Mr, Israel Putnam 
proved himself to be. He opened new and unculti- 
vated lands; built good walls and fences; stocked his 
pastures ; planted his orchards ; erected a comfortable 
and most delightful homestead; and, by his thrift, 
industry, and true agricultural taste, succeeded, in a 
short time, in establishing himself as a well-to-do 
and most successful farmer. He had a young family 
brood growing up about him. His herds and flocks 
increased and multiplied. He found that his land 
was especially adapted to the raising of sheep, and, 
accordingly, he bent his energies to the production of 
wool. So successful was he in this enterprise in a 
brief period of time, that he was popularly reckoned 
one of the largest wool growers of the country, and 



EARLY LIFE. 15 

his profits accumulated at a rate that soon put him 
in circumstances beyond the possible reach of poverty 
or want.* 

It was owing altogether to his having taken so ex- 
tensive an interest in the raising of sheep, that his 
adventure with the wolf became a piece of history. 
During several seasons he seemed to have suffered 
from rather hard luck, both in his crops and his live 
stock; what with drought, and dry-rot, and hard 
winters, he felt that his losses, continued through 
several ensuing years, were quite as large as he felt 
able to submit to. But when it came to the losses in 
his sheep-fold, which were more and more severe 
every winter, he roused himself to see if the mischief 



* In 1739. Putnam and his brother-in-law, John Pope, who 
was also twenty-one years of age, bought a farm of a 
little more than 500 acres in Pomfret, Connecticut, for the 
sum of £2,572. Putnam built for himself a small house 
and cleared as much ground as he could. He then (1740) 
returned for his wife and child and removed them to their 
new home. His industry and energy quickly bore fruit. 
Within a year he not only bought out his partner but 
paid off the full amount of the mortgage and received his 
quitclaim deed June 13, 1741. He also had the luxury of 
a negro servant. The farm was well located and the virgin 
soil fertile. The crop of boulders was quickly transformed 
into fences after the manner of New England farming. In 
addition to grain, vegetables, and live stock, the products 
included lumber, while a variety of apple trees enriched 
the place. This farming life was remarkably remunerative 
from the very first. 



16 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

could not by some means be stopped where it was. It 
was pretty conclusively proved that the work of 
slaughter was performed by a single she-wolf, who, 
with her new family of whelps every year, came from 
a long distance to get her regular winter's living off 
the fatlings of his hillsides and pastures. Nor was 
he the only sufferer by her bold depredations. Nearly 
all the neighboring farmers Avere forced to submit to 
these losses, as well as himself, and they were quite 
ready to undertake, with him, the destruction of the 
ravenous creature who was committing such a general 
havoc. 

This she-wolf was an old jade, and very sly and 
shrewd withal. Almost every year the hunters, with 
their dogs, had fallen in with some of her whelps, 
and made an end of them on the spot ; but they never 
could manage to come upon her in a position from 
which she did not [wssess the cunning to somehow 
escape. Once they had succeeded in getting her to 
put her foot into their steel-trap; but rather than 
wait for them to come to a final settlement with her 
for her many crimes, she concluded she had better 
lose her toes and make the best of her way off without 
them. She preferred to sacrifice these, and so save 
her skin whole. 

Putnam got together five of his neighbors, there- 
fore, and laid before them his proposal to hunt the 



EARLY LIFE. lY 

old wolf down; not to give her any further rest or 
peace until they got her into a place from which there 
could be no escape. The arrangement was, that they 
were to take turns at the business, two at a time, and 
follow her up day and night, till she was traced to 
her den, unless they might have the good luck to de- 
stroy her before she reached it. It was early in the 
winter when the pursuit began, and, as it happened, 
a light snow had fallen to aid them in their design. 
The clipped toes of one of the creature's feet, too, 
would assist the hunters in following her track, of 
which fact they were not slow to take advantage. 

They came upon her footprints, after a time, and 
pursued her along by this single mark of the lost toes 
through the country to the Connecticut river ; show- 
ing that she was at least an extensive traveller. 
Reaching the river's bank, and finding her course 
thus intercepted, back she started again for Pomfret. 
The hunters were close upon her, and readily found 
where she had doubled upon herself. They pressed 
on as hastily as they could, over hill and through vale, 
pushing through swamps and wooded places after her, 
as if nothing had stood in her way. At an early hour 
on the second morning after setting out, they had 
succeeded in driving her into her den in a rocky 
ledge, situated some three miles to the north from 



18 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Putnam's house, and within the limits of the town of 
Pomfret. 

She was carefully watched by one of the men, 
while the other went to give the alarm to the farmers 
around. It was not long before the woods in the 
vicinity of the cave were swarming with the male in- 
habitants of the town, including a pretty large 
sprinkling of boys. They brought along with them 
a liberal supply of dogs, guns, straw, and sulphur, 
prepared to smoke her out, burn her out, punch her 
out, or, in any event, to shoot her. The shouting and 
the clamor resounded a great ways from the steep 
hill-side where the transaction took place, as if they 
had 'come with the intention to make a good time of 
it. The boys, in particular, were delighted with the 
prospect of the fun there was ahead, and kicked and 
capered about in the exuberance of their spirits. It 
was a great thing for them to be allowed to take a 
part in such sport with their elders. 

After a council of war had been held, and a close 
scrutiny of the retreat chosen by their crafty enemy 
had been indulged in, it was generally concluded that 
the wolf was not such a great fool in going into this 
cavity as they might have thought her. She was, to 
all intents and purposes, in her fortress. How should 
they go to work to get her out ? At first they tried 
tantalization, — ^sending in their dogs, who came out 



EARLY LIFE. lO 

again yelping and crying, with lacerated skins, and 
torn and bloody noses, showing how skilfully she 
had used her claws in her own defence. They could 
not prevail on the dogs that had tried the entrance 
once, to go in the second time. So they next hit upon 
the plan to stuff in lighted bundles of straw, sprinkled 
liberally with sulphur, hoping thus to smoke her out. 
They very truly argued that, if she could stand that, 
she must be too much for them to think of attacking. 
Accordingly, the straw was piled in, and set on 
fire. The dense volumes of smoke rose and rolled 
slowly into the cave, and they thought they were go- 
ing to secure their game this time without any fur- 
ther trouble. But they looked, and continued to look 
in vain for the appearance of anything like a wolf. 
The smoke could not have reached her ; or, if it did, 
it failed to have the effect upon her they had calcu- 
lated. 

Time was wearing on in this way, and nothing 
seemed likely to come of all their labor at last. It 
wanted now but about a couple of hours to midnight. 
They were not willing to go home and leave their 
dreaded enemy where she was, unharmed, and free 
to repeat her bloody mischief. Again they tried to 
coax the dogs to go in ; but they could not so readily 
make the animals forget the rough treatment they 
had received on a previous visit. Israel Putnam 



20 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

felt the need of some one's making a decisive move- 
ment, lest the matter should fall through entirely. 
He therefore ordered a man-servant to undertake the 
step needed ; but he declined very positively. An ap- 
peal was made to the whole company present, to know 
if there was any one who dared undertake this most 
undesirable piece of business; but the appeal was 
made in vain. Neither man nor boy was willing to 
risk his life in an encounter with a mad animal at the 
further end of a subterranean cave, which had already 
shown such a disposition to stand her ground and face 
her opponents down at any hazard. 

Finally it became difficult to endure this state of 
suspense any longer, and Putnam took his resolution. 
It was a bold, and no doubt a very reckless one ; but 
when he considered, in a flash of his thought, the 
amount of the losses incurred by his neighbors as well 
as himself, from the depredations of this ravenous 
wild beast, he wondered how it was possible for any 
one to hesitate. He declared he would go down and 
meet the old wolf himself. The farmers were over- 
whelmed with astonishment, and tried to dissuade 
him from carrying out his rash purpose. But all they 
could say had no effect whatever upon him. He was 
determined to put an end to the existence of the wolf, 
and to do it on that very night. 

Well aware of the fear inspired in a wild animal 



EARLY LIFE. 21 

by the sight of fire, he provided himself with a large 
quantity of birch bark, torn into shreds, before going 
into the cave, and lighted a sufficient number for his 
immediate purpose. These furnished all the light he 
had by which to guide himself along the winding 
passages of the rocky cavern. Stripping off his coat 
and waistcoat, with a lighted torch in one hand, he 
entered the dark aperture at near midnight, crawl- 
ing slowly upon his hands and knees. 

The mouth of the wolf's den was about two feet 
square. From this point it proceeds downwards 
about fifteen feet, then it runs horizontally for some 
ten feet more, and afterwards it ascends very easily 
for sixteen feet towards its termination. The sides 
of the cave are of solid rock, and quite smooth ; the 
top and bottom are of the same material; it is but 
three feet in width, and in no part can a man stand 
upright. Putnam groped his way along by the aid of 
his flaring and smoking torches, until he reached the 
level portion of the cavity. All was still as a tomb, 
and his feeble torchlight was able to penetrate but a 
little distance into the surrounding gloom. He was 
obliged to advance but slowly, and every few moments 
it became necessary for him to renew his torch, which 
he did with the greatest care, lest it might go out in 
the lighting, and he be left in the profoundest dark- 
ness. 



22 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

After creeping over the ten feet of the level por- 
tion of the cave, he came to the ascent. Onward he 
dragged his slow and toilsome way, till his progress 
was suddenly arrested by the sight of a pair of glar- 
ing eyeballs at the very extremity of the cavern. 
There sat the old wolf herself; and, as she saw the 
flash of the torch he carried in his hand, she gnashed 
her teeth and uttered a low and threatening growl. 
The brave and venturesome young farmer took a 
hasty view of things in the cave, and then gave a 
kick at the rope which his friends had tied about one 
of his legs before he made the descent, by way of 
precaution. Fearing that the worst had befallen 
him, they pulled more excitedly at the rope than was 
necessary ; and, before he could have protested against 
such rough treatment, he found himself dragged out 
upon the ground before the mouth of the cave, with 
" his shirt stripped over his head, and his skin se- 
verely lacerated." They had heard the growl of the 
wolf outside, and feared that he was involved in a 
struggle with her for life or death. Besides, it was 
known that he had carried no weapons into the cave 
with him, and they were more solicitous on that ac- 
count. 

This time, however, he loaded his gun, took more 
torches, and went down better prepared for the en- 
counter. He knew his wa}^ along of course better 



EARLY LIFE. 23 

flhan before ; but he was now burdened with his mus- 
ket. When he came in sight of the wolf again, she 
was in the same place and position, but appeared a 
great deal more dissatisfied with his company. The 
account of his early biographer and personal friend 
states that she wore an aspect of great fierceness: 
" howling, rolling her eyes, snapping her teeth, and 
c'ropping her head between her legs. She was evi- 
dently in the attitude, and on the point of springing 
at her assailant. At that critical moment he levelled 
his piece, aiming directly at her head, and fired. 
Stunned with the shock, and suffocated with the 
smoke of the powder, he immediately found himself 
drawn out of the cave." But this time his friends 
took a little more care not to strip his shirt over his 
shoulders, nor to tear his skin against the jagged 
edges of the rock. 

He allowed a few moments for the smoke to es- 
cape from the chambers of the cavern, and then went 
in again to secure his prize. On examination he 
found his old enemy lying dead on the floor of the 
cave at its further extremity, in a pool of blood. Ho 
had taken aim to some purpose. In order to satisfy 
himself that she was really dead, he applied his torch 
to her nose ; she made no * signs of life. Accord- 

•Thls adventure with the wolf, by which perhaps mors 



24: LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ingly, he seized her by her ears, gave the rope around 
his leg an exuhing kick, and out he went, with his 
precious prize dragging after him, into the midst of 
the crowd at the mouth of the cavern, who showered 
their praises and congratulations upon him without 
stint. They sent up a shout of delight that filled the 
wintry woods with its echoes. Their arch enemy 
at length lay stretched out stark and stiff at their 
feet. 

From that hour, Israel Putnam was a hero in the 
eyes and mouth of everybody. He came very soon 
to be known far and wide as the slayer of the old 
she-wolf that had made such havoc with the farmer's 
folds, and people loved to repeat a story that had 

than by anything else, Putnam's early life is remembered, 
does not command unqualified approval. A more prudent 
and equally effective method would have been to block the 
mouth of the cave with an impassible trap, or even to 
wall it up with masonry. But this safe method would have 
lacked the dramatic element demanded by so ardent a 
nature as Putnam's. 

The real value of this incident is that it shows that 
Putnam had no sense of fear. The reader will readily 
recall the parallel of Admiral Nelson. At the age of fifteen 
young Nelson attacked a polar bear with no weapon but 
a pike-staff. When asked if he was not afraid, he replied: 
" Sir, I am not acquainted with Mr. Fear." 

On the other hand, the greatest general of the XlXth 
century, U. S. Grant, and the greatest warrior of the XVIIth 
century, Marshal Turenne, of Prance, were decidedly sus- 
ceptible to fear. Grant outgrew this early in the war, and 
Turenne overcame it by pure force of will. 



EARLY LIFE. 25 

such decided elements of romance and daring in it; 
for it excited them quite as much in the telling as it 
did others in the hearing. The story grew, too, as it 
travelled, and Putnam's fame of course grew along 
with it. He was known among the officers of the 
army, with whom he fought during the Seven Years^ 
War, as " the Old Wolf ; " and his fame reached 
England through the aid of the public journals, 
which are generally not behind in chronicling such 
a truly bold and daring adventure.* 

The dozen years that Putnam followed the peace- 
ful pursuits of a farmer, between this notable event 
and the breaking out of the French war, he indus- 
triously made the most of. In that time, by his 
thrifty management, he laid the foundation of a per- 
manent and abundant fortune, for those days of sim- 
plicity, and provided for those wants, which other- 
wise must have been unprovided for entirely, apper- 
taining to advanced age and a life generously spent 
in behalf of the liberties of his country. When he 
retired from public service altogether, it was a com- 
fortable reflection for him that he had a good home 
to which to withdraw his weary self, where he might 

* The wolf-den, being a part of the everlasting hills, is 
still to be seen in the town of Pomfret, and it is the Mecca 
of many a student of the history of early patriotism. The 
den is unchanged except for an inscription on one of the 
rocks at its entrance. 



26 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

pass his latest years unreached by the gripe of pov- 
erty and want, and secure in the friendship and af- 
fection of the happy family group that there budded 
and blossomed like beautiful plants around him. 



CHAPTER II. 



THE TKENCH WAK. 



The struggle between the English and the Frenehi 
for the mastery of this continent, deserves more than 
the mere allusion to it as an historical fact, which is 
all we are able in this place to give. The Indians 
that swarmed in the northern forests, and about the 
lakes and streams, were, the greater part of them, en- 
listed on the side of the Erench, and showed them- 
selves ready to perform any of those barbarities that 
were asked of them in the wild excitement of the 
times. These Indians were the worst foes that ever 
white men were forced to meet. They were stealthy 
and secret; they skulked and hid in every nook and 
corner ; they started out unexpectedly from every tree 
in the forest. In their dispositions they were vin- 
dictive and remorseless; they would fight for pay 
rather than from friendship, and hence employed 
both the tomahawk and the scalping-knife without 
either measure or mercy. Such an enemy was a thou- 
sand times more dangerous to encounter than an open 
enemy ; because the English were at no time certain 

27 



28 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

that he would not come upon them when they were 
least expecting it. 

It required unusually prudent, sagacious, and 
brave men to officer a force that should be sent out to 
meet an enemy, too, with such an ally. Hence, the 
colonial governments were frequently at a loss how 
to act, so as not to compromise the safety of the peo- 
ple for whom they were authorized to act. 

This so-called French War began in the year 1755, 
with three separate military expeditions : one of Gen- 
eral Shirley against Fort Niagara ; one of General 
Braddock, against Fort Duquesne; and a third of 
Sir William Johnson against Baron Dieskau, at Fort 
Edward, situated on Lake George.* This last had a 

* The Seven Years' War was at the outset a conflict 
between Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa over the 
question of the succession to the throne of Austria. The 
international complications were such that nearly every 
nation in Europe was drawn into the war. The conflict 
between France and England was fought out not on Euro- 
pean soil, but in India and America, and it resulted in both 
these countries establishing English dominance. In Amer- 
ica, the English and French colonists knew little and cared 
less about the Austrian succession; yet it was the discus- 
sion of that question that made this continent English 
rather than French. 

William Shirley (17057-1771), was appointed royal gov- 
ernor of Massachusetts in 1741, and commander-in-chief 
of the British forces in America in 1755. 

Edward Braddock (1715 7-1755), is chiefly known by his 
defeat by the Indians and his death in a battle near Pitts- 
burg, while he was on his way to fort Duquesne, George 



THE FRENCH WAR. 29 

successful termination ; the others were fruitless and 
unfortunate. 

Israel Putnam received an appointment to the 
captaincy of a company of provincial soldiers, volun- 
teers of Connecticut, and this company composed a 
part of the regiment under command of General Ly- 
man. Everybody knew Putnam for a fearless and 
trusty man; and although it is positive that he had 
had no previous military experience, yet his winning 
frankness and hearty honesty soon attracted to his 
standard a crowd of the finest young men the whole 
colony afforded. It was a deserved compliment to 
such a man, and he would certainly have been the 
last one to betray the high confidence thus reposed in 
him. 

The expedition, of which his company and regi- 
ment formed a part, had for its object the reduction 
of Crown Point, a fortified place on Lake Cham- 
Washington served under him in that disastrous battle, and 
to him it is due that the entire British force was not anni- 
hilated. 

Sir William Johnson (1715?-1774), was noted for the 
influence he exercised over the Indians. He later wrote 
a treatise on the customs and languages of the Indians. 

Baron Ludwig August von Dieskau (died in 1767), was a 
German oflBcer in the French service. In 1755 he was sent 
to Quebec as field marshal (marechal-de-camp) . After 
his capture he was sent to England, and upon his release 
he went to France. The closing years of his life he spent 
in and near Paris. 



30 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

plain. Massachusetts Colony started the project, and 
she, together with Connecticut and !N^ew York, was 
determined to carry it out to success if possible. The 
command of the entire expedition was given to Gen- 
eral William Johnson, one of the leading men in the 
New York Colony, and the troops were to collect at 
Albany as a central depot. It was late in June when 
they assembled. Early in August they began to move 
forward, and reached the point from which all the 
necessary accompaniments of warlike operations were 
to be transported across the land to Lake George. 
Gen. Lyman had already begun to erect a fortifica- 
tion at this point, which went by the name of Fort 
Edward. 

Later in August, the main body of the army took 
up its march, and pressed on till it reached the south- 
ern point of Lake George. It was learned from In- 
dian scouts that a large body of French and Indians 
were stationed at Ticonderoga, since become an im- 
mortal name, which is the point at which Lake 
George empties, with its thundering sound, into Lake 
Champlain. They had not yet thrown up any works 
there, and Johnson therefore felt more desirous to 
proceed as soon as possible, with a part of his army, 
and seize the place before they could recover suffi- 
ciently from their astonishment at his appearance, to 
make a proper defence. 



THE FRENCH WAR. 81 

But Baron Dieskau, the Frencli commander, had, 
in the meantime, become apprised of the position and 
projects of the provincial forces at Fort Edward, and 
hastened to attack them before their works were all 
completed. If he could succeed in this plan, it was 
then his determination to move down upon Albany, 
and the other towns within reach, and lay them waste 
with all possible celerity. Accordingly, he took two 
thousand men with him from Crown Point, and, 
landing at South Bay, started across the land for 
Fort Edward. He even kept the design of this move- 
ment a secret until he had come within a couple of 
miles of the provincial forces. When he at length 
made his plans known, the Indians murmured, de- 
claring they never would fight against the cannon and 
musketry of the English. This obliged him, there- 
fore, to change his purpose, and he pushed on towards 
the north, to surprise the English at the southern 
point of Lake George. General Johnson was in com- 
mand there, as already stated. His scouts came into 
camp and informed him of the approach of Dieskau, 
"with his Canadian and Indian allies. 

It was at once determined to send forward a de- 
tachment to meet them, and offer them battle. Col. 
Williams * commanded the entire body, which con- 

♦Ephraim Williams (1715-1755), was born at Newton, 
Massachusetts; " served in King George's war; built Fort 



32 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

sisted of a thousand provincials and about two hun- 
dred friendly Indians. They came upon the French 
some four miles out from the camp, and found the lat- 
ter all skilfully prepared to meet them. Dieskau had 
arranged the French troops in the centre, while the 
Canadians and Indians were stationed along in the 
woods on either wing, so as to surround the English 

Massachusetts (near Williamstown, Massachusetts) ; com- 
manded a regiment of Massachusetts troops in the French 
and Indian war; and fell in an ambuscade" near Lake 
George. His memory is perpetuated in "Williams College. 
" Leaving a garrison in Fort Edward, Johnson moved 
with about 5,000 men to the head of Lake George, and 
there formed a camp, intending to descend into Lake Cham- 
plain. Hendrick, the celebrated Mohawk chief, with his 
warriors, were among these troops. Israel Putnam, too, 
was there as a captain, and John Stark as a lieutenant, 
each taking lessons in warfare. The French were not 
idle; the district of Montreal made the most strenuous ex- 
ertions to meet the invading foe. All the men who were 
able to bear arms were called into active service; so that, 
to gather in the harvest, their places were supplied by men 
from other districts. The energetic Baron Dieskau re- 
solved, by a bold attack, to terrify the invaders. Taking 
with him 200 regulars, and about 1200 Canadians and 
Indians, he set out to capture Fort Edward; but, as he 
drew near, the Indians heard that it was defended by 
cannon, which they greatly dreaded, and they refused to 
advance. He now changed his plan, and resolved to attack 
Johnson's camp, which was supposed to be without cannon. 
Meantime scouts had reported to Johnson that they had 
seen roads made through the woods in the direction of 
Fort Edward. Not knowing the movements of Dieskau, a 
detachment of 1,000 men, under Colonel Ephraim Williams, 
of Massachusetts, and 200 Mohawks, under Hendrick, 



THE FRENCH WAR. 33 

forces as soon as they had advanced far enough into 
this well-set trap. Had not the engagement begun as 
soon as it did, the plan of the French Baron would 
unquestionably have worked well; but, as it was, it 
did not operate quite so exactly to his mind. The 
provincials fought like the brave men they w^ere, and 
were forced at last to fall back. Col. Williams was 
slain in the battle, and so was Hendrick, the famous 
Mohawk Indian chief, who had been a firm friend 
to the English and provincials. 

The vanquished forces retreated till they reached 
the main body, under General Johnson. This en- 
gagement had taken place before noon. It was just 
about noon, then, whqji the French forces came up to 



marched to relieve that post. The French had informa- 
tion of their approach and placed themselves in ambush. 
They were concealed among the thick bushes of a swamp 
on the one side, and rocks and trees on the other side. 
The English recklessly marched into the defile. They were 
vigorously attacked and thrown into confusion. Hendrick 
was almost instantly killed, and in a short time Williams 
fell also." — Patton. 

On this march Colonel "Williams asked Hendrick if he 
thought their force sufficient. The sagacious Mohawk 
answered: " If they are to fight, they are too few; if they 
are to be killed, they are too many. It was then proposed 
to divide up the foree. Hendrick picked up three sticks, 
put them together, and said : " These cannot easily be 
broken, but take them one by one and you may break them 
at once." He probably realized that he was marching on 
to his death. 



34 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

renew the battle, flushed and eager with their recent 
victory. On each side of the American position, 
which was upon the bank of Lake George, lay a 
swamp, densely covered with trees. Gen. Johnson 
had mounted a few pieces of cannon, which he had 
fortunately received from Fort Edward, and a breast- 
work was hastily constructed by felling trees. On 
came the French in regular order, expecting only a 
second victory. After pausing for a brief moment at 
a distance from the breastworks, they fell upon the 
centre with great spirit, while the Canadians and In- 
dians attacked the two flanks in the hope of turn- 
ing them. 

The assault upon the centre did not prove as de- 
structive to the provincial forces as was calculated; 
on the contrary, the latter took fresh courage on see- 
ing how little damage the French were able to do 
them. As soon as they began to play their cannon 
upon the advancing enemy with such terrible effect, 
the allied Indians and Canadians took to their heels 
in a paroxysm of fear, being quite unused to so de- 
structive an engine of warfare. Baron Dieskau in 
consequence was obliged to retreat in great haste and 
confusion, and his force was hotly pursued by a por- 
tion of the provincial army. The Baron himself was 
wounded, and found leaning against a stump, all 
alone. An American seeing him feeling for his 



THE FRENCH WAR. 35 

watch, with which he probably hoped to bribe his 
pursuers, supposed he was searching for his pistol; 
upon which he inflicted upon him a wound in the hip 
with a musket ball, which finally proved mortal. He 
was carried a prisoner into the camp in a blanket, and 
treated tenderly. Afterwards he was taken to Al- 
bany, then to ISTew York, and finally to England. 

Being pursued for some four miles, the French at 
length halted to refresh themselves on the very 
ground where the battle of the morning had been 
fought. How different were their feelings then, from 
their feelings of a few brief hours before ! Mean- 
time Gen. Lyman had despatched a force up from 
Fort Edward to the assistance of Gen. Johnson, and 
the detachment he had sent forward came upon them 
while they were thus refreshing themselves on the 
morning's battlefield. A second time they were 
routed, and, on this occasion, most thoroughly. Many 
prisoners were taken and carried into camp. Thus 
opened the English successes on the continent against 
the French forces, with this brilliant victory of Lake 
George. This was the battle in which Joseph Brant,* 

♦Joseph Brant (1740-1807), whose Indian name was 
Thay-en-da-ne-gea, was born on the banks of the Ohio river, 
and was educated at Hanover, New Hampshire, in the 
school that afterwards became Dartmouth College. He be- 
came a Christian and was zealous in good works: he trans- 
lated parts of the Bible into his native tongue, and was 



36 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the famous Mohawk Indian, then but thirteen years 
old, first learned the art of war from taking an active 
part in it. 

Gen. Johnson at once proceeded to erect a fort 
where he was encamped, which he named Fort Wil- 
liam Henry. Israel Putnam not long afterwards 
reached the camp at Lake George, where, during the 
remainder of the season, his active temperament and 
love of perilous performances peculiarly fitted him 
for the duties which were then assigned him. As a 
ranger, volunteering his services on occasions of great 
danger, and when much caution w^as necessary, no 
man in the provincial army could, at that day, 
surpass or equal him. It fell to him, in this capacity, 
to find out where the enemy were, what was their 
strength, to be continually alarming their pickets, 

unremitting in his efforts to improve the intellectual, so- 
cial, moral, and spiritual condition of the Indians. He 
won universal esteem as a cultivated Christian gentleman. 
He went as representative of the Six Nations to England, 
where his intelligence, courtliness of manner, and high 
character secured for him much influence. In the war of 
the revolution he held from the king the commission of col- 
onel in the British army, and in central New York he led 
the Tories in many a raid that greatly harassed the patriots. 
He was a brave soldier, and, like other brave soldiers, was 
always magnanimous. At the close of that war he used 
his influence among the Indians to persuade them to engage 
in the arts of peace. " He was sagacious and brave, chiv- 
alrous and faithful, kind and gentle, and unquestionably the 
greatest Indian of whom we have any knowledge." 



THE FRENCH WAR. 37 

to devise ways of harassing and surprising them, to 
act as a partisan scout in fetching information from 
the hostile parties, and in performing all those other 
active labors that are of the most effective service to 
the success of a military campaign on an uninhab- 
ited frontier. 

Once, during that season, he set out with Captain 
Rogers * and a small party to reconnoitre the de- 
fences at Crown Point. The forest in the vicinity 
was alive with Indians, and it was at the same time 
impossible for the whole party to approach within the 
desirable distance of the fort. They concealed the 
men, therefore, in the woods not far off, and went by 

* Robert Rogers was born in Londonderry, New Hamp- 
shire, in 1727. Nothing is known of his life until 1755, 
when he entered the provincial military service as com- 
mander of a corps known as " Rogers' Rangers." His 
work, which was chiefly that of scout, was of great value 
to the English. In the war of the Revolution he sided 
with the British, was arrested on suspicion, violated his 
parole to congress, accepted the commission of colonel in 
the British army, was tried by New Hampshire, proscribed 
and banished. In 1778 he went to England, after which 
time he is lost to view. It is by some supposed that he 
died in England about 1800. At the time of the French- 
Indian war his services as scout were of great value to the 
British, and in this capacity he ranked next to Putnam. 
But his wanton cruelty was in marked contrast to Putnam's 
humanity. He promptly murdered the wounded so as to 
save himself the trouble of caring for them. " As a man 
his deserts were small; as a bush-fighter he was beyond 
reproach," 



38 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

themselves to reconnoitre. Creeping along in the 
dark, they soon came near to the fort, where they re- 
mained secreted all through the night, but without 
obtaining as much knowledge as they went after. To- 
wards morning they were more successful ; and, while 
returning by different ways to the place where their 
party lay concealed, a French guard came suddenly 
upon Capt. Rogers, and made an effort to stab him, 
while he also gave the alarm. They clinched and 
struggled. Meantime the guard answered to the 
alarm. Putnam learned the cause of the trouble, 
and in an instant flew to his companion's rescue. 
With a single well-directed blow from the butt of his 
musket upon the head of the Frenchman, he laid him 
out upon the ground, stark and dead. Immediately 
the two bold rangers hastened to rejoin their little 
party, with whom they made the best of their way out 
of the reach of their enemies. 

It was now late in the season, it being in the month 
of October. Of course it was impracticable to at- 
tempt anything more of a hostile nature during that 
year, especially as Crown Point was ascertained to 
be too strongly fortified to be assailed at present. 
The greater part of the army was therefore dis- 
charged, leaving but six hundred men as a force with 
which to garrison both Fort Edward and Fort Wil- 
liam Henry. During the same season, too, the 



THE FRENCH WAR. 39 

French descended the lake and took military posses- 
sion of Ticonderoga, which they proceeded to fortify. 
Putnam's company were disbanded with the other 
colonial regiments, and he returned home to pass the 
winter in the quiet retirement of his farm in Connec- 
ticut. 

The next year's campaign had the same ohjects in 
view with that of the last. Owing, however, to the 
victories that had been achieved by the French com- 
mander, Montcalm,* at Fort Ontario and Fort Os- 
wego, the plans of the campaign were altogether dis- 
arranged. An expedition was set on foot against 
Crown Point, which was to be conducted by Gen. 
Winslow, with provincial troops alone ; but the unex- 



• Montcalm collected a force of 5,000 Canadians, French- 
men, and Indians at Frontenac (now Kingston), at the foot 
of Lake Ontario, crossed the lake to Oswego, and, Aug. 11, 
1756, attacked and soon captured Fort Ontario, on the 
east side of the river. On the 14th he captured Oswego 
with 1,400 prisoners, besides large quantities of arms, am- 
munition, provisions and other stores, and the vessels lying 
in the harbor. 

The Marquis of Montcalm (1712-1759), was well edu- 
cated and rose to distinction in the army in France. In 
1756 he succeeded Baron von Dieskau as commander-in- 
chief of the French army in America. His military opera- 
tions, though ultimately unsuccessful, always displayed 
skill, courage, and humanity. He was mortally wounded 
in the storming of Quebec in 1759. When told that he must 
soon die, he quietly said: " So much the better; I shall not 
live to see the surrender o£ Quebec." 



40 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

pected success of Montcalm bad the effect to throw 
the English altogether on the defensive. Putnam 
was still at the head of a company, serving under his 
former commander. Abercrombie commanded the 
entire forces until past the middle of the summer; 
in August he was displaced by Lord Loudon.* The 
English generals were in constant expectation of be- 
ing attack by the French, and therefore assumed 
an attitude almost exclusively defensive. 

Putnam, in this campaign, acted the bold part of a 

♦John Campbell (1705-1782), was the fourth Eaii of 
Loudon. Though he rose to considerable distinction In 
England, his name is recalled by Americans with feelings 
of aversion. In 1756 he was appointed Governor of Vir- 
ginia and commander-in-chief of the British forces in Amer- 
ica. He transferred to Dinwiddle the actual government 
of the colony, while he himself went direct from New York, 
where he landed, to Albany to assume control of military 
affairs. His attempt at the capture of the fort of Louis- 
bourg resulted in an amazing fiasco. Setting out with a 
large fleet, he landed 10,000 soldiers at Halifax, and for a 
month practiced gardening and played at war by sham 
fights, etc. The troops had by that time become dispirited 
and Loudon was superseded by General Amherst, who cap- 
tured the fort. Loudon was taken to England, tried by 
court-martial, and acquitted. He was made lieutenant-gen- 
eral in 1758, and general In 1770. His most salient charac- 
teristic was his haughtiness, imperiously disregarding the 
privileges and rights both of citizens and of his subordi- 
nates. He was characterized by indolence, indecision, and 
general inefficiency. Franklin wittily said of him that he 
was " like King George upon the sign posts, always on 
Jiorse-back but never advancing." 



THE FRENCH WAR. 41 

ranger. This duty required a person of peculiar 
qualifications, and such had he in perfection. He 
was daring, and even reckless, and, at the same time, 
he knew how to be cautious and wary as an Indian. 
His active and ardent temperament fitted him above 
most other men for so responsible and arduous a ser- 
vice. He excelled in two important qualities, — cour- 
age and caution. He could be bold, and he also knew 
how to keep silence. United with his other rare qual- 
ities was an instinctive sagacity, which piloted him- 
self and his little party many a time safely through 
dangers with which other men, perhaps fully as 
brave, would have been overwhelmed. Indeed, con- 
sidering the history of Israel Putnam's military ex- 
ploits from first to last, it must be said of him, in 
summing up the whole, that he excelled chiefly as a 
military partisan — in scouting expeditions, forays, or 
guerilla warfare. No man in the army was more 
impetuous yet more cool, more daring and reckless 
and still more self-controlled, than he. And it was 
this which made his services so brilliant and so valu- 
able during the protracted terms of both the French 
and Indian, and the Revolutionary War. 

Once, during this campaign of 1756, he was di- 
rected to take some observations, and report concern- 
ing the camp of the enemy at the " Ovens." This was 
but a little way from Ticonderoga. Taking along 



4S^ LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

with him Lieut. Durkee,* he started off on his per- 
ilous but most welcome errand, is^othing suited him 
better than excitement and danger. The business was 
to be performed in the night, and required therefore 
all the more caution. The French army, when they 
lay down at night to sleep in the forest, kindled their 
fires in the centre of the camp and slept on the out- 
side of the circle, quite within the protection af- 
forded by the darkness. The custom of the English 
and provincial army was just the contrary. Putnam 
and his friend did not happen to be aware of this 
fact. Hence, they made their way up thoughtlessly 
toward the fires of the French, on their hands and 
knees of course, and had gone some distance within 
the enemy's lines before they became aware of their 
desperate situation. They were discovered by the 
sentinels, who at once fired upon them. His friend 
was wounded in the thigh, but Putnam was unhurt. 
The latter wheeled and rushed into the darkness 
again; but suddenly he found himself lying all in a 
heap at the bottom of a clay pit. Hardly had he 
come to himself sufficiently to understand where he 
was, when in plunged another person after him. 
Putnam raised the butt of his musket to break his 
head, when a voice asked him if he was hurt. He 

•Lieutenant Durkee was burned at the stake by the 
Seneca Indians at the massacre of Wyoming, July 4, 1778. 



THE FRENCH WAR. 43 

recognized the voice as that of his friend, Lieut. 
Diirkee. In the greatest haste — quite as great, if 
possible, as thej had found their way into the pit — 
they both scrambled out, and made off into the forest 
in the midst of a rain of ineffective bullets from the 
enemy. 

They lay under a large log during the rest of the 
night, and found the light of the silent stars much 
more agreeable company than they probably would 
have found that of the hostile camp-fires. It is re- 
lated that when Putnam unslung his canteen, to di- 
vide the rum it held with his wounded and fainting 
comrade, he found to his surprise that a stray bullet 
from the sentinel had pierced, and entirely emptied 
it of its contents.* 

The provincial camp was much troubled by the 
prowling incursions of the Indians, who used to 
come about in the stillness of the night and carry off 
the sentinels, no one could tell how or whither. It 
was one of the greatest mysteries that excited their 
curiosity, or their superstitious fears. One of the 
outposts had suffered more than any of the others. 
At last it became so hazardous to serve as guard, — 
no soul of those who were missing ever coming back, 
or sending back any tidings of his fate, — that not a 

* It is also related that Putnam found fourteen bullet- 
holes through his blanket. 



44 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

man could be found who was willing to put his life 
in peril in occupying it All were appealed to, but 
in vain. They were not ready to volunteer in a ser- 
vice where they felt certain there was not even a 
chance in their favor. Some of the best and bravest 
men had volunteered on that post, and never been 
heard of again. 

It had come to such a pass at length, that the com- 
manders were about to proceed to draw men by lot 
for the place, when Putnam stepped forth with his 
usual promptitude, eager to brave the danger, and 
pluck out the heart of the mystery. He need not 
have done this, for, as an officer, he would not have 
been liable to be drawn with the rest ; but he suffered 
that consideration to make no difference. He of- 
fered to garrison the post for that night himself, and 
his offer was accepted. The directions were, at hear- 
ing the least noise, he was to ask, " Wlio goes there ? " 
three times ; and, if no answer was returned, then to 
fire immediately. "With these instructions fresh in 
his mind, he went out and took his station. In the 
first place, he made a thorough and most minute ex- 
amination of every object within sight and reach. 
He laid down in his mind exactly how trees, rocks, 
bushes, and stumps stood relatively to each other, and 
photographed their appearance in his memory. Then, 



THE FRENCH WAR. 45 

seeing, tliat his firearm was in perfect order, he 
waited and watched for the terrible mystery. 

There was a moon in the sky that night, by whose 
pale light even those objects with which he had al- 
ready become familiar, looked weird and spectral. 
For several hours nothing occurred that attracted his 
attention. Midnight wore on, but no manifestations 
of any lurking danger yet. By and by, however, he 
thought he heard a slight noise in the wild grass. He 
gave it all his attention. Then, what sounded like a 
wild animal, came straying along, gradually nearing 
his position. Finally the animal seemed to take the 
appearance and nature of a wild hog; and, to carry 
out the resemblance, it busied itself with cracking 
the acorns it grubbed up underneath the trees. Put- 
nam saw it all, and heard it all. His thought was al- 
ways quick, and rarely did it lead him far astray. 
Even a hog should not be permitted to pass the lines, 
he declared to himself, unless he gave the counter- 
sign. Accordingly, he raised his musket to his 
shoulder, and called out, " Wlio goes there ? " three 
times, and fired. The hog gave a deep groan, straight- 
ened out in the agonies of death, and instantly lay a 
lifeless heap on the ground. On going up to ex- 
amine it, he discovered that he had only shot a treach- 
erous and wily Indian, who had disguised himself in 
a bear-skin, and thus picked off the unsuspecting sen- 



46 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

tinels from this dangerous post night after night. 
There was no longer any fear among the soldiers of 
standing sentry on that post. The heart of the mys- 
tery had been laid open, and this was what there was 
in it. 

Putnam was likewise the leader and master-spirit 
of another excursion against the enemy that season, 
which added much to the increasing lustre of his 
fame. It appears that some five or six hundred of the 
French had made a descent on the stores and baggage 
of the English army, at a place about half way be- 
tween Fort Edward and Fort William Henry, and 
carried off a large quantity of provisions as booty. 
The soldiers who were escorting the train were not 
numerous enough to protect it against the vastly 
greater force of the assailants, and were obliged to 
yield it up altogether. Putnam was ordered, with 
about a hundred men in boats, carrying with them 
two small pieces of cannon, besides their ordinary 
arms, to head them off on their return down Wood 
Creek into Lake Champlain. They all started off in 
high spirits, and sailed down Lake George in their 
batteaux, with the resolution to punish the insolence 
of the enemy wherever they might fall in with him. 

They landed at a certain point far enough down 
the lake, and there disembarked, leaving their boats 
under a sufficient guard, and marched rapidly across 



THE FRENCH WAR. 47 

to the narrows of Lake Champlain, where they took 
their stand and waited for the thieving rascals to 
come up. The place in which Putnam concealed the 
men was admirably selected, and so hidden by the 
trees and bushes that no one sailing down the lake 
would look for danger from such a quarter. The 
body of the water at that point, also, was not so wide 
but his guns could sweep it for the whole distance. 
As the French came sailing by, the party in ambush 
suddenly poured in upon them a terrible volley of 
shot, which performed most remarkable execution. 
The rowers were killed, the boats were sunk, and they 
were so huddled together in the confusion that they 
afforded a surer mark for the fire of the provincials. 
Only a few of the boats managed to escape, and these 
with the aid of the wind that blew up the lake very 
strongly. By this means the encampment at Ticon- 
deroga were advised of the mortifying mishap to 
the expedition, and hastened to wreak their ven- 
geance upon its authors before they could return to 
headquarters. 

It was in the expectation of something like this 
that the rangers betook themselves back to their boats 
with all possible speed, knowing that their condition 
was a desperate, if not an utterly hopeless one, should 
they be intercepted before thoy reached the water. 
They had some twenty miles to make, in order to do 



48 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

this; but they were successful. The French hurried 
after them by way of the lake above, and, of course, 
must have made much headway even before the 
rangers embarked again, which was at night. The 
very next day they saw their enemy on shore in large 
numbers. They must have silently passed them 
somewhere during the night. It of course was not 
long before the French spied them coming, and took 
to their boats with great speed, determined to fight 
them in line on the lake. 

The French appeared extremely exultant, as if the 
battle had been fought and the victory had been al- 
ready won. Up they sailed in regular array, sup- 
posing that the provincials, who could not have num- 
bered more than one to their three, would be so 
stricken with terror at their approach that they would 
decline fighting altogether. Not until they came 
within shot of them, did the small party of brave fel- 
lows under Putnam open fire; and then they gave 
them, all at once, the full contents both of their can- 
non and their muskets. This reception dismayed the 
French. They had counted on nothing of the kind. 
They supposed they had been sailing up to an easy, 
and perhaps a bloodless, victory. Continuing thus to 
pour in volley after volley, and not allowing the 
enemy to recover themselves sufficiently to rally for 
one strong efi^ort, the provincials very soon succeeded 



THE FRENCH WAR. 49 

in scattering the flotilla of French boats, and driv- 
ing them off the field of battle. 

The provincials were the victors. The French lost 
a great number of their men, and the Indians fell 
into the lake in scores. What is very strange, there 
was but one man out of the provincial force killed in 
this sharp engagement, and but two were wounded, 
and they only slightly, while the loss of the French, 
including their previous loss on Lake Champlain, on 
their return from the foraging excursion, amounted 
to hardly less than five hundred. The French learned 
a pretty dear lesson by it all ; and, certainly, if noth- 
ing else were to be said about it, they paid at a costly 
rate for the provisions they were guilty of stealing 
from the escort at Half Way Brook. 



CHAPTER III. 

CONTIITUATION OF THE FRENCH WAE. 

Had Israel Putnam kept a record of his varied and 
most exciting experience from the time his life began 
to be of public interest, it would have secured an at- 
tentive perusal to the latest generations. But he was 
doing greater things than he knew, like many others 
who are noble and heroic themselves without being 
aware of it. The next year, 1757, he received a 
major's commission from the Connecticut Legisla- 
ture ; showing in what deservedly high esteem he was 
held by those with whom the public interests were 
left to be administered. 

Thus far, it certainly could not be denied that the 
English arms had met with but indifferent success in 
the war then waging with the French. This was in no 
sense to be charged to the want of efficiency or cour- 
age on the part of the colonists, in cooperating with 
them in their plans; the fault lay elsewhere. The 
officers who were appointed to direct the operations 
of the army were not the men they should have been ; 
they knew little or nothing of the country, being sent 

50 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 51 

over from England solely for the purpose of super- 
vising what they knew little about. They could not 
be expected, either, to feel that close sympathy with 
the condition and prospects of the colonists which 
was so essential to the success of their warlike plans ; 
and, by their very rank and station, they were alien 
to the habits, and strangers to the feelings that made 
up the sturdy colonial character. 

Lord Loudon * was an inefficient and improper of- 
ficer to set at the head of an army anywhere. It is 
not pretended that he possessed any degree of courage, 
much less that he was gifted with that military gen- 
ius which is certainly to be looked for in a commander 
who undertakes the responsibilities of such extended 
campaigns. Montcalm, the French General, had put 
him to his wits' end in achieving such few, but very 
significant successes as he had at Oswego, destroying 
and dismantling the foii: at that place; and Loudon 
therefore resolved to stand only on the defensive. 
This was the whole secret of his no-policy of the sum- 
mer previous, after his appointment by the ministry 
at home to supersede Greneral Abercrombie. During 
the winter, however, he had made liberal drafts on 
the several Legislatures of the colonies, to which they 
responded with great promptness. Early in the year 
1757, too, fresh and abundant forces arrived from 
♦gee above, p. 40, note. 



62 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

England ; so that the belief was general that the cam- 
paign of this year was to be carried forward with 
signal energy and enthusiasm. 

Had the matter lain with the colonies, the plans 
of the previous campaigns would certainly have been 
pushed on to completion and success. And the for- 
tress from which the various assaults against the 
peace of the provincialists were fitted out, would have 
been assailed in turn with all imaginable vigor. 
In other words, the war would have been car- 
ried by the colonists into Canada. But not 
BO thought Lord Loudon. With every means with 
which to secure a brilliant series of conclusive vic- 
tories ready at his hand, he foolishly projected an 
excursion against the distant French fortress at 
Louisbourg, on the island of Cape Breton, at the 
mouth of the St. Lawrence, the rallying point for 
the French on this continent. Here he thought to 
strike a decisive blow which would bring him sudden 
fame for future enjoyment at home. In order to 
achieve this contemplated success, it was first neces- 
sary for him to concentrate his troops at Halifax. It 
was far into the summer when he reached that point, 
and then it was only to learn that a large fleet of 
French vessels had just before arrived at Louis- 
bourg,* which was now abundantly able to protect the 

•Louisbourg was in the Island of Cape Breton, at the 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 53 

fortification there from assault. So Loudon gave over 
his purpose altogether. He did not even make an 
effort to secure the victory of which he was, only a 
little time before, so sanguine and certain. He left 
his ships to watch the further movements of the 
French, and hastened back himself to New York. 
And thus nothing was accomplished bj him during 
that year. 

But Montcalm understood the situation of affairs 
exactly. He knew that Louisbourg could now take 
care of itself, and he also knew that the provincial 
and English force on the Canada lines must be much 
weakened by this ill-timed movement of Loudon. So 
he resolved to improve the advantage offered by these 
circumstances, and to push down Lake George and 
take possession of Fort William Henry. It was a 
bold undertaking, and yet it appeared a very feasible 
one. This fort was but a poor affair at best. It stood 
on a piece of ground gently rising from the shore of 
the lake, and had for a garrison about three thou- 
sand men. At Fort Edward, which was the lower 
fort. Gen. Webb commanded ; and the force under 
him was even larger than that at Fort William 

eastern extremity of Nova Scotia. Its importance lay in 
the fact that it was the harbor for the French privateers 
and other vessels of war, which issued from thence for 
sudden and destructive attacks upon English shipping and 
immediately returned to perfect safety. 



54 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Henry. Montcalm had an army of nine thousand 
men, including both French and Indians. During 
the month of March previous, he had ventured upon 
an attempt to take Fort William Henry; but it 
proved unsuccessful. He landed near that fortifica- 
tion on St. Patrick's eve ; and a large portion of the 
British Rangers being Irishmen, he had not miscal- 
culated in supposing that, inasmuch as they would 
probably celebrate that well-known festival, they 
would become more or less intoxicated; and of this 
circumstance he intended to take advantage. Lieut^ 
Stark happened to be in command at the Fort at that 
time, and accidentally overheard some of the Rangers 
planning on the evening previous for their celebration 
of the next day. As an excuse for not furnishing 
them with liquor, he feigned lameness in his wrist, 
which prevented him from writing ; so that when the 
army sutler was applied to for the liquor, he replied 
that he had received orders not to deal out any with- 
out a written order. Stark's lame hand was excuse 
enough for his not writing such orders, and of course 
no spirits were dealt out to the Rangers at all. The 
regular troops who celebrated the occasion were af- 
fected with the liquor they drank, and when the at- 
tack was made, — as it was, on St. Patrick's day, — 
the successful defence of the Fort was made entirely 
by the sober Rangers. 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 55 

Montcalm liad collected his forces, as just men- 
tioned, to the amount of nine thousand men, French 
and Indians. It was in the latter part of July al- 
ready. General Webb had just proceeded to Fort 
William Henry, with an escort of two hundred men, 
taking their commander. Major Putnam, along with 
him. While he remained at the Fort, he thought 
proper to send Putnam down the lake with a small 
force of but eighteen men, to discover where the 
enemy were, and in what numbers. They found 
the islands at the entrance of IsTorth-west Bay alive 
with them. Leaving two out of the five boats behind, 
that they might appear, if detected, to be innocently 
engaged in fishing, Putnam hurried back with all 
possible despatch to inform Gen. Webb of his as- 
tounding discovery. He of course then proposed to 
return to the rescue of his comrades, whom he had 
left behind ; but Webb peremptorily refused him per- 
mission. By pleading and begging, however, he was 
allowed to return, and all the boats at last found 
their way back in safety, although they were hotly 
pursued, and at one time nearly surrounded by the 
enemy. 

What does this cowardly general then do, but com- 
pel Putnam to pledge his eighteen men, by a solemn 
oath, to keep their knowledge of the enemy's approach 
a secret from the garrison at Fort William Henry, 



66 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

and then order him to escort him with his command 
back to Fort Edward. Putnam protested, even to a 
greater extent than most joung officers would dare to 
protest against the orders of their superiors; but it 
was all in vain.* Webb was escorted back in safety 
to his distant quarters at Fort Edward, cruelly leav- 
ing the garrison at Fort William Henry ignorant of 
their danger. But the next day he had thought 
enough better of it to send back Colonel Monroe, with 
his regiment, ordering him to assume the entire com- 
mand. 

Wlien Montcalm therefore made his appearance 
before the fort, he had three men to the garrison's 
one. First he sent to Col. Monroe a summons to sur- 
render the place, and humanely urged as a reason 
the enormous bloodshed and cruel destruction of life 
that would thus be averted. But as the latter had 
good reasons to continually expect reinforcementa 
from General Webb at Fort Edward below, he re- 
fused to consider such a demand at all. From that 
time the siege regularly commenced, and continued 
for six days. Word was sent to Webb by expresses 

* Putnam, in his eagerness, had the audacity to say to 
his superior officer: " I hope your Excellency does not in- 
tend to neglect so fair an opportunity of giving battle, 
should the enemy presume to land? " The only reply vouch- 
safed by the imperious Webb was the scornful query: 
"What do you think we should do here?" 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 57 

during this time, laying before him their precarious 
situation, and imploring immediate succor; but it 
was a supplication to ears that were deaf. The man 
was either an arrant coward or else grossly infatu- 
ated. He did seem to relent, however, after a time, 
and changed his purpose so far as to send up Gen. 
Johnson, together with Major Putnam and his 
Rangers ; but they had gone on but about three miles 
when he despatched an order after them, calling them 
back immediately. By the same messenger who was 
the bearer of this cowardly order, he sent a letter to 
Colonel Monroe, at Fort William Henry, informing 
him that he could render him no assistance, and ad- 
vising him to surrender at once. The messenger was 
intercepted, and Montcalm got possession of the let- 
ter and instantly knew how the case stood. He had 
just before heard from his Indian scouts that the 
force that was marching up under Johnson and Put- 
nam, were, in the language of the red men, as great 
in numbers as the leaves on the trees; and he had 
made up his mind to beat a retreat as early as he 
could in consequence. But this intercepted letter 
put a new face on the matter. He sent it in to Col. 
Monroe at once, therefore, with a new and more ur- 
gent demand for him to surrender. 

No other way, of course, was left him. The siege 
had already nearly consumed their provisions, while 



58 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

their ammunition was almost entirely exhausted. 
Articles of stipulation were drawn up between the 
two commanders, and Montcalm promised that the 
provincial army should be protected on their march 
down to Fort Edward by an escort of French troops. 
They were to march out with their arms and their 
baggage. They should not again serve against the 
French for eighteen months; and the sick and 
wounded were to be cared for by Montcalm, until 
such time as they should sufficiently recover to be 
safely escorted to Fort Edward. 

The moment the last lines of the army had passed 
the gates of the fort, the Indians, numbering some 
two thousand in all, set up their hideous war-cry, 
shrill and fearful in the ears of the terror-stricken 
provincials, and fell upon them with all the strength 
and fury of their long-pent passion. They were, no 
doubt, expecting a large amount of plunder from this 
expedition against Fort William Henry, and when 
they saw their enemy thus about to escape them, they 
were alile no longer to control their savage indigna- 
tion ; neither could Montcalm hold them in check, as 
he had already hinted in his first summons to the 
garrison to surrender. The French were powerless to 
afford them the least protection, even if they made 
the attempt. Such an indiscriminate and merciless 
massacre as on that bloody day was enacted on the 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 59 

borders of beautiful Lake George, is scarcely 
matched, certainly not exceeded, by any similar trans- 
action recorded in history. Those who fled were pur- 
sued by the savages for more than half the way to 
Fort Edward, who filled the forest with the wild 
echoes of their hideous war-whoop. Fifteen hundred 
of this devoted little army were butchered on the spot 
where protection had been solemnly promised them. 
The remnant, which did not finally reach Fort Ed- 
ward, were dragged away into captivity, to suffer and 
at last to die. The defile through which they re- 
treated from the fort, is called Bloody Defile to this 
day. Only a few years ago, on making excavations 
for a plank road there, a large number of human 
skeletons were thrown up to the surface. Several 
skulls had long fractures in them, as if made by toma- 
hawks. 

Webb was greatly alarmed on hearing what had 
been done, as well he might be. He therefore sent 
forward Major Putnam, with his command, to re- 
connoitre, and report if the enemy were about to 
march down next upon Fort Edward. And there is 
little doubt that, in case they had done so, he would 
have fled from the place with cowardly precipitancy, 
leaving such of his men as would not accompany him 
to take the best care they could of themselves. Put- 
nam reached the fort only to find it a mass of ruins. 



60 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

The French, having finished their diabolical work, 
were just getting into their boats to return up the 
lake. Putnam describes the scene that met his gaze, 
as he came up, in the following words : " The fort 
Avas entirely demolished; the barracks, out-houses, 
and buildings, were a heap of ruins; the cannon, 
stores, boats, and vessels were all carried away. The 
fires were still burning; the smoke and stench of- 
fensive and suffocating. Innumerable fragments, 
human skulls and bones, and carcasses half con- 
sumed, were still frying and broiling in the decaying 
fires. Dead bodies, mangled with knives and toma- 
hawks, in all the wantonness of Indian fierceness and 
barbarity, were everywhere to be seen. More than 
one hundred women, butchered and shockingly man- 
gled, lay upon the ground, still weltering in their 
gore. Devastation, barbarity, and horror every^vhere 
appeared, and the spectacle presented was too dia- 
bolical and awful either to be endured or described." 

Fort William Henry was never rebuilt. Fort 
George was built upon a point about a mile to the 
south-oast of it, at which the English army ren- 
dezvoused the next year, just before their brilliant, 
but most unfortunate expedition against the French 
on Lake Champlain. 

Later the same year. General Lyman, the old com- 
mander under whom Putnam first served in this war^ 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 61 

was in authority at Fort Edward, and began to make 
his position as secure and strong as circumstances 
would allow. One day he despatched a party of 
more than a hundred men into the forest to cut tim- 
ber, and a guard of fifty regular troops was sent 
out to protect them against any sudden surprises. 
There was a narrow road leading to the fort, at the 
extremity of which the soldiers were posted. One 
side of this road was bounded by a morass, and the 
other by a creek. Early one morning, before the sun, 
in fact, was fairly up in the east, one of the sentinels 
thought he saw a flock of birds flying over ; and, on 
looking carefully, he discovered that one of these 
feathered creatures lodged in the top of a tree above 
his head, and took the form of an Indian arrow. He 
gave the alarm, and it was found that a party of 
savages had crept into the morass during the night, 
who, as soon as the alarm was sounded, rushed out 
from their hiding place and murdered those of the 
laborers who were nearest at hand, driving the rest 
into the fort, which was some hundred rods off. The 
regulars came to the rescue in an instant, and drove 
back the Indians by a volley of musketry, so that the 
rest of the laborers were at last enabled to reach 
the fort in safety. 

Gen. Lyman is supposed to have misinterpreted 
the state of things, having been so thoroughly sur- 



62 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

prised, and therefore called in all his outposts and 
shut the gates of the fort. He supposed that a gen- 
eral attack against the fort from all points was in- 
tended, and felt the stem necessity upon him, for 
the moment, of leaving the little company of fifty 
regulars under Capt. Little to take care of them- 
selves. It was a cruel mistake, though Gen. Lyman 
was never charged with cowardice in making it. Put- 
nam happened to be placed on guard at the time, with 
a body of rangers at one of the outposts, which was 
on a small island situated not far from the fort. The 
moment he heard the sound of the firing in the di- 
rection of Capt. Little's company, he sprang with 
his usual impulsiveness into the water, and bade his 
men follow him. As it was necessary for him to pass 
the fort on his way. Gen. Lyman leaped to the para- 
pet as he came on, and ordered him to stop where he 
was. He said it was needless to risk the lives of any 
more men ; for he certainly supposed that the entire 
army of French and Indians were right upon them. 
Putnam, however, declared that he could not suffer a 
fellow-officer to be sacrificed without even an effort 
to save him ; and, after offering a brief and very 
hasty excuse for his conduct, pushed forward with the 
hot haste that was so characteristic of his nature. He 
thought of nothing, and cared for nothing, but to res- 
cue his brave companions. 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 63 

They reached the company of regulars who were 
thus fighting for their lives, and rallied around them 
in an instant. Putnam was for going pell-mell into 
the swamp; and in they went, raising a shout, as 
they did so, loud enough to have frightened the very 
beasts of the forest. The Indians were not expecting 
to be received in quite this style, entertaining no such 
ideas of the courage of their enemy; they therefore 
took to flight with great precipitancy, and were hotly 
pursued during the rest of the day into the forest. 
Putnam returned to the fort with his men, expect- 
ing, of course, to be disgraced for his open disobe- 
dience of orders ; but the general thought proper, un- 
der all the circumstances, to let the matter pass by in 
silence, and probably was glad of an excuse to get 
over it so easily. It would, without doubt, have 
created an intense excitement in the garrison, had 
Putnam received even a reprimand for his brave and 
self-sacrificing conduct on so trying an occasion. 

Putnam remained at Fort Edward during that 
winter. In the course of the winter, too, another op- 
portunity offered for him to make a display of that 
cool courage and bold daring, for which he enjoyed 
so wide a fame among the soldiers. The barracks 
caught fire at a point not more than twelve feet dis- 
tant from the powder magazine, in which were stored 
about fifteen tons of powder. Cannon were brought 



G4 I^IFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

to bear upon them, in the hope of battering down a 
portion of them, and thus staying the progress of the 
fire. But it was in vain. Putnam saw the ex- 
treme danger, and, knowing that the flames were 
rapidly advancing in the direction of the magazine, 
determined to make every exertion possible to check 
them. For this purpose, he stood upon a ladder 
reaching to the roof, and took the buckets of water as 
they were passed up to him from the line of men that 
was formed between the fort and the river, and him- 
self kept dashing it without intermission upon the 
flames. The heat grew every moment more and more 
intense, till he thought at times he could endure it no 
longer. The fire gained on him in spite of his efforts, 
and he found himself enshrouded in a rolling mass 
of smoke and flame. One pair of thick woollen mit- 
tens was burned off his hands, and he immediately 
called for another ; these he kept continually dipping 
in the water, to preserve them from the fate of the 
other pair. 

He was even directed to come down, as it was worse 
than useless to expose himself in this way any longer ; 
but he resolutely refused, fighting the furious enemy 
with a desperate energy that excited general wonder 
and admiration. Still all the while he appeared as 
cool and collected as if there was no such danger as 
fifteen tons of powder contained, within a mile of 



CONTINUATION OF THE FRENCH WAR. 65 

him. Some of the men, in the meantime, stricken 
with a panic, were proceeding to get their few val- 
uables out of the fort and make ready for the ex- 
pected explosion. 

Up to this time, only a single angle of the bar- 
racks was on fire ; but now the flames enwrapped the 
entire line, and were bent on getting at the powder 
beyond. Putnam was then obliged to leave his post 
on the ladder, and came down and planted himself, 
as the last resource, between the burning barracks 
and the magazine, and called for more water. They 
kept passing it to him in a steady stream of buckets. 
The fire had now caught the outside timbers of the 
magazine, and burned them completely off. Only a 
single thickness remained between that and the pow- 
der, and that was soon reduced to a living coal ! 
Some thought of flight ; but Putnam worked on. 
While his sturdy form stood confronting the fires, it 
acted upon those who saw him like a magTiet, to at- 
tract them to the spot. So they all worked with 
greater enthusiasm still. Putnam was covered with 
the thick-falling cinders, and enshrouded with the 
smoke. Every one expected to see him give out before 
so relentless a foe as the one he had undertaken to 
contend with. This was a rarer display of true cour- 
age than when he went down alone into the wolf's 
den at midnight, finding his way along with a flick- 
5 



66 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ering torch. Pie poured on the water incessantly. 
At last the main timbers of the barracks having 
burned through, they fell in, and the danger was 
over. For nearly two hours he had fought the fire 
single-handed. He was blistered from head to foot, 
from his exposure to the intense heat ; and on drawing 
his second pair of mittens from his hands, the skin 
came with them too. 

He was a keen sufferer from the effects of these 
blisters and burns, and it was many weeks before he 
was able to feel that his case had taken a favorable 
turn. But by this single act he had earned for him- 
self the warmest admiration and the hearty gratitude 
of the garrison, and indeed of the entire army. No 
one could justly estimate what he alone had saved, by 
thus subduing such a remorseless enemy as for a time 
threatened to overwhelm them all with instant de- 
struction. 



CHAPTER IV. 

CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 

Wtt.t.tam Pitt^ afterwards Lord Chatham, had 
been entrusted with the administration of affairs bv 
the British government during the previous year, the 
King finding the people at home and his colonies in 
America were growing exceedingly restive under the 
accumulating disasters and mortifications of the war. 
Thus far, nothing seemed to have come of all their 
efforts and sacrifices. The three or four northern 
colonies that had heretofore been so lavish of their 
men and money in the prosecution of the war, — a 
war, too, which was to bring no immediate advan- 
tage to themselves, — felt that it was a drain upon 
them to go on in this way, for which there was no like- 
lihood that they would ever receive a proper compen- 
sation. Had the army achieved any signal successes, 
it would have been a different thing; but the idea 
of continuing as they had been doing for the past two 
and three campaigns, caused no little irritation and 
disquiet among them. They had raised fifteen thou- 
sand men to carry on this war; and they hesitated 

67 



68 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

about raising any more with so little promise of suc- 
cess. 

As soon, however, as it was understood that the 
king had changed his ministry, their hopes changed 
too, and they looked forward to a chance now of re- 
trieving their past losses, and securing that honorable 
peace for which they had been fighting. 

Mr. Pitt saw at once, with his instinctive compre- 
hensiveness of mind, that the arms of the English bad 
failed of success hitherto, on account of the lack of 
capacity and courage on the part of the leaders. lie 
therefore resolved to recall the inefficient Lord Lou- 
don ; and ordered Abercrombie * to resume the com- 
mand, in which the former had, only the year before 
superseded him. General Abercrombie made his 
head quarters at Fort Edward. He had been there 
but a little while, when he gave directions to Major 
Putnam to take sixty men with him down towards 
South Bay, beyond the place where Wood Creek emp- 

* James Abercrombie (1706-1781), born of a wealthy 
Scotch family, was bred as a soldier and rose to the office 
of colonel in the British army. In June, 1756, he was sent 
to this country and commanded the British forces until the 
arrival of Loudon in August of that year. In 1758 he suc- 
ceeded Loudon as commander-in-chief. He had no military 
ability. His blunder at Ticonderoga cost his country the 
lives of 2,000 brave men. In 1759 he was superseded by 
Amherst and returned to England. Elected to Parliament, 
he furthered those measures of harsh policy toward ths 
colonies which resulted in the war of the Revolution. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 69 

ties into Lake Champlain, and there watcli for such 
parties of the French as might come straggling along 
in their direction. This was business exactly suited 
to Putnam's mind, and he proceeded to obey so wel- 
come an order with his usual alacrity. Arriving at a 
spot which he thought a most favorable one for en- 
trenching his little party, he threw up a breast work 
of stone some thirty feet in length, and ingeniously 
concealed the whole with young pine trees which were 
chopped for the purpose. The creek at that point was 
only thirty yards in width ; and the precipice on 
which he erected his fortification lifted itself some 
ten or fifteen feet straight above the water. The op- 
posite bank was very steep, and fully twenty feet in 
height. 

The party became short of provisions, after a 
time, although Putnam had already sent back fifteen 
men to Port Edward, who were too unwell to stand 
the exposure any longer. He felt sorely the want to 
which they were getting reduced, and cast about to 
find some way of securing temporary supplies. Hap- 
pening to see a large buck emerging from the thicket 
and making ready to plunge into the creek and swim 
to the other bank, he impulsively fired and brought 
the animal to the ground. At such a time, the firing 
of a gun was contrary to military rules, and the most 
hazardous experiment that could have been tried. 



70 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

And it proved so in the present instance. Marin, the 
famous French partisan, — of whom we have spoken 
before, — chanced to be in the vicinity with a party 
of French and Indians, moving stealthily dowm to- 
wards the American forces. This warning, which 
Putnam's musket furnished him, also sufficed to show 
him where the provincial scouts were stationed ; and 
the moment his sentinel, who had heard the report 
of the musket, brought in word to that effect, Marin 
resolved upon either surprising them where they 
were, or stealing past them unperceived into the 
country below. 

The French and Indians glided on down the creek 
as silently as possible. They detected as yet no signs 
of an ambush, for the pine trees before the parapet 
which Putnam had erected served as a perfect screen. 
At about ten o'clock at night, one of the American 
sentinels brought in word that he saw a great many 
canoes, filled with men, advancing in the silence of 
the night in their direction, and that they would soon 
be within reach of the fort on the bank. Putnam 
called in the sentinels, and prepared to greet the 
enemy in his earnest manner, as soon as they should 
make their appearance. It was a perfectly still night, 
and a full moon flooded the landscape with its mellow 
light. All within the little parapet was hushed. 
There was not even the rustle of a bough, or the 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. Yl 

crackle of a twig to be heard. The canoes came in 
siglit. Thej were indeed packed with men, as the 
sentinel had warned them. Putnam resolved to 
allow the first part of the line of boats to get well into 
the throat of the waterj defile, and then to open 
fire upon them and take all possible and destructive 
advantage of their confusion. 

They had paddled their way into this treacherous 
snare, not a sound as yet breaking the stillness, when 
a soldier in the American party accidentally struck 
the lock of his musket against a stone. " 0-wish 1 " 
hissed the commander of the enemy, halting in his 
sudden fright, and repeating the Indian watch-word. 
The van of the line of boats having thus come to a 
stand, the rear crowded up rapidly, and in a moment 
they were all huddled together before the ximerican 
breastworks. Putnam saw his advantage, and eagerly 
improved it. He at once ordered his men to fire. In- 
stantly the entangled knot of canoes was thrown into 
still direr confusion. The French could not see their 
enemy, and of course could return but an ineffectual 
fire. On the other hand, almost every shot of the 
American party carried death along with it. They 
kept up their murderous work from the parapet with 
unabated energy, killing great numbers of the enemy 
in the boats, whose lifeless bodies went tumbling over 
the sides and plashing into the water. Marin at 



T2 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

length saw, with his quick eye, that, from the firing 
of the Americans, there could not be many of them, 
and accordingly sent off a detachment of his men to 
land below and attack the entrenched party from be- 
hind. 

Putnam, however, was as quick as himself. He 
instantly ordered a detachment of a dozen men to go 
and prevent their landing, which order was success- 
fully executed ; and he sent still another party up the 
creek, to prevent a similar demonstration in that di- 
rection. There were thus left only twenty men with 
Putnam in the fort; and these kept loading and firing 
their pieces during the remainder of the night, mak- 
ing great havoc with the boats, but not even sacrific- 
ing a single life among their own number. It was 
discovered, when morning broke, that a part of the 
French had succeeded in making a landing below, 
between the Americans and Fort Edward, and noth- 
ing was left the latter but to retreat with all possible 
despatch. This last order of Putnam's was executed 
with signal success. Only two of the American scout- 
ing party were wounded during this action, while 
nearly three hundred of the enemy fell beneath the 
fire from behind the concealed battlements on the 
bank. These two were sent off, with two others, to the 
fort, but were afterwards overtaken by their pursuers, 
having been tracked by their blood on the ground- 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 73 

They advised their escort to fly, which the latter did. 
One of them then killed three of the Indians, before 
they succeeded in despatching him, and the other was 
carried off a prisoner into Canada. Putnam after- 
wards saw him there, when himself a prisoner in the 
hands of the French.* 



* It was about ten o'clock at night when a sentinel gave 
the news that a fleet of bark canoes, filled with men, was 
approaching. " The part of the lake which the enemy soon 
entered is narrow — only a few rods wide — and the shores 
on either side abrupt and rocky. . . The night was clear 
and the full moon shone with unusual brightness. . . . 
Some of the enemy paddled by little suspicious of danger. 
. . Putnam, who had commanded his men not to fire 
until he gave the signal by doing so himself, discharged 
his gun. A deadly volley followed from the breastworks, 
and the well-concerted attack threw the enemy into great 
confusion. . . In the weird moonlight the tragic scene 
continued. Putnam and his men poured an incessant and 
destructive fire upon the enemy, who in return groaned, 
shrieked, yelled, and ineffectively shot towards the parapet. 
At dawn Putnam learned that some of the foe had landed 
below him and were hastening to cut off his retreat. Know- 
ing that the force was superior to his own and that he 
could make but little resistance, since his soldiers had 
only a small supply of ammunition left, some of them hav- 
ing in fact shot their last round, he ordered his men to 
" swing their packs." They retired rapidly, in good order, 
and succeeded in advancing far enough up Wood Creek to 
avoid being surrounded, although they were obliged to 
leave behind them three of their number, who had been 
wounded in the long-continued action. Afterwards, when 
Putnam was in Canada, he learned that the French and 
Indians in the memorable moonlight encounter, numbered 
five hundred, commanded by the famous partisan [i. e,^ 



74 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

On his retreat to Fort Edward, having only forty 
men under him in all, Putnam was suddenly sur- 
prised to find himself fired upon by a party that was 
unexpectedly approaching in front. Ignorant of 
their numbers, he nevertheless determined to rush 
forward to the conflict, and at once fight his way 
through or run the chances for his life. Scarcely 
had he set up his loud shout for his men to follow 
their leader, when a cry arose from the other side, — 
" Hold, we are friends ! " " Friends, or foes," said 
Putnam, when they came up, " you deserve to be fired 
into for doing so little execution, when you had so 
fair a shot ! " The party proved to be a detach- 
ment of men from the fort, who had been sent to cover 
the retreat of the little force under Putnam. 

Gen. Abercrombie determined, not long after tak- 
ing possession of his post at Fort Edward that year, 
to sig-nalize the year's campaign by some brilliant un- 
dertaking. He could think of nothing which would 
bring him larger and more sudden fame than the 
capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and he therefore formed 
the resolution to compass such a plan before the sea- 
son went by. It was a hazardous undertaking, as he 
well knew; the fortifications were of the most thor- 

scout, or guerilla], Marin. No scouting party since the 
war began had suffered sucli a loss, for more than one 
tialf of those who went out never came back." — Livingston. 



CAMPAIGN OF lim. 75 

ough and extensive character; tlie site was almost a 
perfect defence of itself; and it required all the 
strength and courage of a well appointed and highly 
disciplined army to march up to storm such a for- 
tress, in the face of the thousand obstacles which the 
garrison had it in their power to throw in their way. 
But Abercrombie seemed to have set his heart on 
the undertaking. His imagination, it is easy to sup- 
pose, was dazzled with visions of the military glory 
which its capture would earn for his name. 

It so chanced that the garrison within the fort at 
Ticonderoga was at one time this summer reduced to 
four thousand men ; whereas Abercrombie had at his 
command fully sixteen thousand, nine thousand of 
whom were furnished by the Colonies. They as- 
sembled at Fort George, and set sail on the lake on 
the 5th day of July, in the gray of the morning. It 
was a Saturday. The array thus presented on the sur- 
face of that beautiful lake, formed a picture to which 
no descriptive pen could do the justice it deserves. 
There were one hundred and thirty-five whale boats, 
and nine hundred batteaux, all laden heavily with 
men and arms. In the sultry twilight of the same 
evening they debarked at a point on the lake called 
Sabbath Day Point, where they remained until mid- 
night, refreshing themselves with rest after the long 
day's heat and fatigue. 



76 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Young Lord Howe was with the army, the idol 
and adored of all. He gathered around his table the 
many youthful and gallant spirits of the army, with 
whom he discoursed with great freedom and eloquence 
on the prospects of this most splendid expedition. 
Capt. Stark was present, who afterwards achieved a 
lasting renown as one of the Generals of the Revolu- 
tion. Much was said about the situation of Ticon- 
deroga, its defences, the means of approach to its 
fastnesses, and the probable termination of the at- 
tempt to reduce it by their arms. There were those 
present, who, on recalling many things which Howe 
uttered that night, thought they detected a gleam of 
that sadness of his to which they afterwards gave the 
name of presentiment. 

This flotilla of more than a thousand boats on the 
bosom of the lake, presented a splendid military 
pageant. Howe, in a large boat, led the van, sur- 
rounded by a company of Rangers and boatmen. 
The English troops were displayed in the centre, and 
the Previncials formed the wings. It was a little 
after midnight when they re-embarked and began to 
move forward again. There was not a cloud to be 
seen in the sky ; the stars shone out bright and spark- 
ling; and the placid lake was unruffled by the breath! 
of the lightest breeze. Their oars were muffled, and 
their progress was so silent that not a single one of the 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 77 

sentinels on the surrounding hillsides observed them. 
It was day-dawn when they had come within four 
miles of the point at which they were to land. The 
sentinels of the French had no suspicion of the pres- 
ence or even of the approach of the English army, 
until the blaze of their scarlet uniforms flashed in 
their eyes, as the crowded boats rounded the point of 
land that intervened. They landed at about noon in 
a little cove on the west side of the lake, Lord Howe 
leading on the vanguard of the army. The Rangers 
pushed forward through the forest, to clear the way 
for the main body. Howe came to the bridge that 
spanned the stream formed by the emptying of Lake 
George into Lake Champlain, at the point known 
as Lower Falls; and thence he hurried on for the 
distance of a mile and a quarter to the French 
lines. 

The French first erected their fortifications at Ti- 
conderoga in 1^55. They found that site most hap- 
pily adapted to the requirements of a fortress, it 
being peninsular in form, and elevated more than 
a hundred feet above the level of the lake. On three 
sides was water, while on the fourth was an almost 
impassable swamp, or morass. This latter was sit- 
uated to the north. There was a neck, or narrow strip 
of land, between this swamp and the outlet of Lake 
George, upon which were built regular entrench- 



Y8 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ments, and afterwards a breastwork nine feet in 
height; and before this breastwork was an abatis, — 
which is formed of trees cut down and pointed with 
their sharp branches outward, rendering it extremely 
difficult for opposing troops to make their way over 
them in an attempt at storming. 

As wc before remarked, Montcalm had but four 
thousand men under his command in the fortress, and 
was at the time expecting a reinforcement of three 
thousand from Canada. Abererombie knew this very- 
well. The latter advanced his army in three columns, 
but they made but slow progress on account of the in- 
tricacy of the forest into which so large an army had 
been plunged.* An advance battalion of the French 
fled from the log breastwork they occupied, at their 

* The fact is that Lord Abererombie was lost in the 
woods. The English were very slow to learn the require- 
ments of warfare on the frontier. It was this ignorance 
that cost Braddock his defeat and death on the way to 
Fort Duquesne. In the present instance, Abererombie was 
trying to advance with mechanical precision and in regu- 
lar columns, as if he were on a parade ground. No won- 
der he found it, as he explained, " a strange situation," 
and added that " the woods being very thick, impassable 
with any regularity to such a body of men, and the guides 
unskilful, the troops were bewildered, and the columns 
broke, falling in one upon another." It may be added that 
the detachment of French troops, with which the conflict 
began, was also lost; but there was an important difference. 
The French were on their own ground and quickly recov- 
ered themselves, while with the English matters grew 
worse and worse. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 79 

approach, which they fired as they fled. Lord Howe * 
was second in command. Putnam acted as an ad- 
vance guard to thread the forest, and to perform the 
valuable service of a scout. He had a hundred brave 
men under him. Young Howe was eager to advance 
as fast as the scouts, and proposed to Major Putnam 
to accompany him; but to this the latter would not 
listen. He nobly said to him, in trying to dissuade 
him from his purpose, " My Lord, if I am killed, 
the loss of my life will be of little consequence ; but 
the safety of yours is of infinite importance to this 
army." " Your life," instantly answered Howe, " is 
as dear to you as mine is to me ! I am determined to 
go ! " And he did go. It was not long before they 
came up with the advance guard of the enemy, the 
same which had a little while before fled and burned 
the log breastworks. This body was without a guide, 
it seems, and had become bewildered in trying to 
find their way back to the French lines. At once 

* Lord Howe was a born leader and was universally pop- 
ular throughout the army. He did not superciliously hold 
himself aloof from the volunteers, as is too often the cus- 
tom of regularly educated military men. He was compan- 
ionable with all down to the humblest, though he was a 
lord. He was not only personally brave, but he had the 
priceless quality of infusing courage and enthusiasm into 
the whole body of the troops. He was just such a soldier 
as to be an ideal and even idol to Putnam. He manifested 
special interest in the rangers, a fact that was fully appre- 
ciated by the latter. His death was a loss to the army that 
can never be computed. 



80 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

fighting began between the parties, and Lord Howe 
fell at the very first fire ! The French, however, were 
driven back, having lost in killed and prisoners four 
hundred and fifty men. The English were greatly 
confused, their lines broken, and at the end of the en- 
gagement Abercrombie withdrew with them again 
to the landing place on Lake George, to obtain rest 
and refresliment. 

It was said that when young Lord Howe fell, " the 
soul of the army seemed to expire." The soldiers all 
adored him. He accommodated himself to all the 
circumstances of his situation, and cut his hair and 
shaped his garments to suit the requirements of the 
service and the fashion of the Provincial army. Five 
thousand troops came over with him to Halifax from 
England, the year before, whom he commanded in 
this expedition against Ticonderoga. When he met 
his melancholy end, he was not yet thirty-four years 
old. The General Court of Massachusetts appropri- 
ated two hundred and fifty pounds, or about twelve 
hundred and fifty dollars, to secure the erection of a 
monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey. 
His remains were carried to Albany, where they were 
buried with suitable honors. His coffin was opened 
many years afterwards, and it was found that his hair 
had grown out in long and beautiful locks. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 81 

Gen. Abercrombie next despatched a party to make 
observations concerning the defences of the enemy; 
and an engineer who went with them brought back 
word that the works might easily be carried, as they 
were not yet finished. Upon this the English army 
marched forward once more. The French opened a 
galling fire of artillery upon them from behind their 
breastworks, as they advanced, but they seemed to 
take no heed of it whatever. On they rushed in the 
face of the enemy's fire, resolved to carry the works 
by storm. The abatis presented the most fearful 
obstacle to them, but they cared nothing for that. 
They recklessly dashed on, clambering over and hew- 
ing their way through the jagged limbs of the trees, 
for the incredible space of four long hours. A few 
did succeed in finally reaching the parapet, — but they 
fell back in death the instant they mounted it. The 
English army was mown down in the most cruel and 
murderous manner, while it was unable to do any exe- 
cution in return.* Abercrombie at length saw the 
futility of the attempt to storm the works, and with- 
drew his forces hastily. The Erench did not pursue, 
or the loss must have been much greater even than it 

* Parkman has given a vivid account of this bloody 
event: — "The scene was frightful, masses of infuriated 
men who could not go forward, and would not go back; 
straining for an enemy they could not reach, and firing on 
an enemy they could not see; caught in the entanglement 

6 



82 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

:was. Tliey retreated * in safety to the point on Lake 
George at which they first landed, whence the 
wounded were sent under escorts to Albany and Fort 
Edward. 

In this most rash and inconsiderate expedition the 
English army lost two thousand men, and twenty-five 
hundred stand of arms. They rushed like brave and 
dauntless heroes into the very jaws of death, but it 
was the height of a cruel ignorance thus to sacrifice 
the flower of an army for no purpose at all. Had Ab- 
ercrombie ordered a general assault on the morning 
after the bloody skirmish with the advanced guard, 
he might have carried the then incomplete intrench- 
ments ; but he delayed until the next day, and by that 
time the French had constructed a bristling abatis 
along their entire lines, which prevented the approach 
of artillery, or even of infantry. 

Putnam displayed great courage at all times dur- 

of fallen trees; tripped by briers, stumbling over logs, 
tearing through boughs; shouting, yelling, cursing, and 
pelted all the while with bullets that killed them by scores, 
stretched them on the ground, or hung them on jagged 
branches in strange attitudes of death. The provincials 
supported the regulars with spirit, and some of them forced 
their way to the foot of the wooden wall." The English 
did not lack bravery even to the point of desperation. 
During the afternoon they made no less than three assaults, 
and every one of them was hopeless. 

* The English retreat was covered by Putnam and his 
rangers, who did not leave the field until nearly dark. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 83 

ing tlie several engagements ; and in the final retreat, 
acting as Aid, in place of the lamented Howe, to Gen- 
eral Abercrombie, he performed most efficient and 
gallant service. Gen. Abercrombie immediately re- 
turned to Fort Edward, having accomplished none of 
the objects for which this most costly and inglor- 
ious military enterprise had been undertaken. His 
inefficiency as a commander was established in the 
eyes of every man in the army. 

It was during this summer that Putnam performed 
his daring feat of dashing down the mad rapids o£ 
the Hudson in an open boat. He was near Fort Mil- 
ler at the time, which was situated on the east bank 
of the Hudson. Learning suddenly that a party of 
Indians were in the woods behind him, he bethought 
himself of what he should do. If he tried to cross 
the river at that point, the savages would certainly 
shoot him before he could get over; if he stayed 
where he was, his doom was sealed without any 
doubt; and if he trusted himself in his light skilT 
to the boiling rapids, he could hardly expect less than 
an awful death on the rocks below. But, as usual 
with him, his resolution was quickly taken. He 
sprang into the boat, hastily ordered the oarsmen to 
push off into the stream, and succeeded in getting be- 
yond the reach of the guns of the Indians by the time 
they came in sight upon the shore. 



84 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

But be bad escaped one danger only to plunge into 
the jaws of anotber. In a few moments tbey were 
witbin the whirl and roar of the rapids. The rocks, 
jagged and sharp, thrust themselves out of the water 
on this side and that. The over-laden boat was lifted 
up and thrown down again by the mad force of the 
breakers. Putnam, however, stood like a statue at 
the helm, skilfully guiding her through the roaring 
dangers, while the savages, struck dumb with aston- 
ishment at what tbey saw, only looked on in silence, 
exchanging not even a sign with one another. The 
boat went safely through the foaming waters, and es- 
caped all the perils that thrust themselves in her rapid 
way : and in a few seconds shot like a silver arrow out 
into the placid bay below. The Indians, from this, 
thought Putnam safe from all danger, and supersti- 
tiously believed it would be useless to fire upon him, 
for his life was " charmed." 

In August, not long after the unfortunate march 
to Ticonderoga, Putnam was sent, with Major Rog- 
ers, to overtake a party of the enemy that had made 
a sudden attack on one of their baggage trains, and 
carried off a large quantity of valuable stores. They 
pushed forward with all possible haste to South Bay^ 
a part of Lake Champlain, and reached the spot just 
in time to see the fugitives embarking in their boats. 
Putnam concluded it was best to remain in the lo- 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 85 

cality, and watch tlie enemy's future movements. 
Rogers was posted at South Bay, while Putnam took 
his position at Wood Creek, which empties into Lake 
Champlain, and about a dozen miles distant. Marin 
was soon in the vicinity again, the foraging party 
having probably carried word to the army above, that 
the Americans were in pursuit ; and as his scouts were 
known to the Americans to be hanging on their out- 
posts, it was thought most prudent for Rogers to 
unite his force with Putnam's at Wood Creek, and 
for them all to march back to Fort Edward as soon 
as they could. This they proceeded to do with all 
proper despatch. 

As they were advancing through the dense thickets, 
so dense that they were obliged to thread their way 
in Indian file, Rogers amused himself one morning 
before the hour for marching had come, with firing 
at a mark with a British officer.* It was of course 
the most reckless mistake that could have been made. 
!A[arin's party of Indians was near enough to hear 
the report, and the wary enemy pushed around until 
he came to an ambuscade through which the retreat- 
ing provincials would have to pass. There he in- 
tended to take his bloody advantage. 

The American troops, numbering about five hun- 

* This was one Lieutenant Irwin. They were shooting 
on a wager. 



86 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

dred, were in three divisions; the first was led on 
by Major Putnam; Capt. Dalzell commanded the sec- 
ond; and the third w^as imder Major Rogers. No 
sooner had the van emerged from the dense thicket 
through which they had been creeping, upon the 
comparatively open plain, than the savages fell upon 
them with surprising fury. They had been skilfully 
posted all along the way, and from their coverts be- 
hind the tree-trunks made sure of a man for every 
fire. Rogers behaved in a manner that was at the 
time thought cowardly ; but Putnam pressed on with 
heated resolution, and ordered Dalzell to hasten for- 
ward with his division to his relief. 

In a short time the fight became a desperate one. 
I^ow it was hand to hand, and now they fired at one 
another from behind the protection of the forest trees. 
First this side seemed to prevail, and then that. A 
gigantic savage * approached Putnam to take his life. 
The latter snapped his fusee, having it pressed close 
against the Indian's breast. It missed fire, and the 
savage sprang upon him with all his native ferocity, 
and instantly made him a prisoner. He took him 
and tied him securely to a tree which was close at 
hand, and then resumed his hot work in the battle. 

The conflict went on with redoubled rage, Capt. 
Dalzell took the command, and pressed hard upon 

* His name was Caughnawaga. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 87 

the foe at one time, when they would recover from 
their disadvantage and dash against the provincials 
with increased fury and madness in turn. Putnam 
was bound to the tree all the while, and, as the battle 
went on, he was several times placed almost in the 
centre of the fire between the two parties ! His clothes 
were pierced with bullets, but he was himself provi- 
dentially unhurt. When once the provincials were 
driven far back, and he found himself surrounded by 
the enemy, two or three young savages amused them- 
selves by hurling their tomahawks at the tree, so as 
just to graze his head. Finally a cruel Frenchman 
presented his gun to Putnam's breast, intending to 
despatch him at once ; but finding it would not go off, 
he clubbed it and dealt him a blow upon his cheek, 
and left him, supposing that he had made an end of 
him.* 



* This story was first narrated by Humphreys, who re- 
ceived the facts direct from Putnam, and from whose 
account all subsequent narratives of the event have been 
derived. The description of Humphreys is exceedingly 
vivid, and is in part as follows: — "The balls flew inces- 
santly from either side, many struck the tree, while some 
passed through the sleeves and skirts of his coat. In this 
state of jeopardy, unable to move his body, or to stir his 
limbs, or even to incline his head, he remained more than 
an hour, so equally balanced, and so obstinate was the 
fight! At one moment, while the battle swerved in favor 
of the enemy, a young savage chose an odd way of discover- 
ing his humor. He found Putnam bound, he might have 



88 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

The enemy were at last driven back by the provin- 
cials, but in their hasty retreat they were careful to 
unbind their prisoner and carry him along with 
them. He was weary and faint, weak from the abuses 
that had been visited upon him, and almost broken- 
hearted at the thought of being led off through the 
wilderness into captivity. The Indians who had 
charge of him, tied his %vi-ists tightly with cords, so 
that they were badly swollen and pained him ex- 
ceedingly. They even strapped heavy burdens upon 



despatched him at a blow. But he loved better to excite 
the terrors of the prisoner, by hurling a tomahawk at his 
head, or rather that it should seem that his object was 
to see how near he could throw it without touching him — 
the weapon struck in the tree a number of times at a 
hair's-breadth distance from the mark. When the Indian 
had finished his amusement, a French bas-ofScer (a much 
more inveterate savage by nature, though descended from 
so humane and polished a nation) perceiving Putnam, 
came up to him, and, leveling a fuzee within a foot of his 
breast, attempted to discharge it — it missed fire. Ineffect- 
ually did the intended victim solicit the treatment due to 
his situation by repeating that he was a prisoner of war. 
The degenerate Frenchman did not understand the lan- 
guage of honor or of nature; deaf to their voice, and dead 
to sensibility, he violently, and repeatedly, pushed the 
muzzle of his gun against Putnam's ribs, and finally gave 
him a cruel blow on the jaw with the butt-end of his piece. 
After this dastardly deed he left him." 

Putnam was later struck on the cheek by the tomahawk 
of an Indian, and the scar of this wound he carried to his 
grave. 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 89 

his back besides. He begged them to kill him out- 
right, and put him out of his sujffering at once. They 
compelled him to walk over a rough and hard country, 
with nothing at all on his feet, and this of course in- 
creased the pain he endured indescribably. But after 
a time his savage captor came up, and gave him a 
pair of moccasins for his feet, besides removing the 
cruel burden from his shoulders.* 

Had this chief continued with him on the journey, 
it would have been better for the unfortunate pris- 
oner. But as he was compelled to go back to look 

* That Caughnawaga spared no pains to guard his pris- 
oner safely, may be inferred from the following account 
of the manner in which he prepared Putnam for his night's 
rest: — "He took the moccasins from his feet and tied them 
to one of his wrists; then directing him to lie down on 
his back upon the bare ground, he stretched one arm to its 
full length, and bound it fast to a young tree; the other 
arm was extended and bound in the same manner — his legs 
were stretched apart and fastened to two saplings. Then 
a number of tall but slender poles were cut down, which, 
with some long bushes, were laid across his body from head 
to foot; on each side lay as many Indians as could con- 
veniently find lodging, in order to prevent the possibility 
of his escape. In this disagreeable and painful posture he 
remained until morning. During the night, the longest 
and most dreary conceivable, our hero used to relate that 
he felt a ray of cheerfulness come casually across his 
mind, and could not even refrain from smiling when he 
reflected on this ludicrous group for a painter, of which 
lie himself was the principal figure." 



90 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

after the wounded, some two hundred Indians went 
on with their captive, and soon came into what 
seemed the very heart of the wilderness. Here they 
stopped, and held a consultation. It was resolved at 
length to take their prisoner and roast him to death 
by a slow fire! Such fiendish torture was exactly 
suited to their savage instincts. Accordingly they 
stripped him of his clothes, bound him to a tree, and 
piled faggots and brushwood in a circle around him. 
He looked on in courageous silence, and prepared his 
thoughts for the end that seemed near at hand. His 
tormentors began to yell and dance around him. The 
fire was kindled, and the flames began slowly to 
creep up towards him. The savages screamed in wild 
delight. The fire grew hotter and hotter, and the 
suffering victim, writhing and twisting, turned him- 
self from side to side. The first time the fire was 
kindled, a sudden fall of rain quenched it; but after 
the second trial, it burnt with great rapidity. The 
more he writhed in his speechless agony, the louder 
the savages yelled in their wild delight, and the more 
frantic became their motions in their barbaric dances. 
He fixed his thoughts on the loved ones at home, and 
made ready to die whenever the last moment should 
come. 

Suddenly a French officer came dashing up through 



CAMPAIGN OF 1758. 91 

the crowd, kicked away the burning faggots and 
branches, cut the thongs by which he was tied to the 
tree, and released hira. It was Marin himself. He 
had heard of these inhuman barbarities of the Indians 
towards their distinguished captive, and hastened on 
to save him from the fate which he knew awaited him. 
Had he come a few minutes later, it would probably 
have been all over. He passionately upbraided the 
Indians for their cruelty, and took the prisoner under 
his own charge for the rest of the journey. 

Putnam suffered excessively all the way to Ticon- 
deroga, although he was treated with kindness and 
courtesy. When he reached that fortress, he was pre- 
sented a prisoner to the Marquis Montcalm, the 
French commander, by whom he was soon after sent 
under a proper escort to Montreal. Ool. Peter 
Schuyler was a prisoner there, with others at the 
time, and he paid Putnam great attention and civil- 
ity. It was through his influence that he was finally 
exchanged for a French prisoner, captured by Col. 
Bradstreet at the assault on Frontenac, now Kings- 
ton, in upper Canada. In Montreal, too. Major Put- 
nam became acquainted with the lovely prisoner, 
Mrs. Howe, whom he escorted back in safety to her 
friends in ISTew England. His final release was 
hailed with joy by his numerous friends throughout 



92 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the combined English and provincial army. They 
had never expected to see him alive again.* 

* Upon Putnam's return from captivity he heard for the 
first time the news of the death of his son Daniel, at 
the age of seventeen. This death had occurred August 8, 
1758, the very day the Indians were dancing around the 
fire by which they were roasting the father alive. 

Putnam's exchange was effected by the finesse of his 
friend. Colonel Schuyler, who was appointed by Abercrom- 
bie to negotiate the details of the exchange. To Vaudreuil. 
the French commissioner, he said with apparent indiffer- 
ence: "There is an old man here [Putnam was just forty 
years of age] who is a Provincial Major, and wishes to 
be at home with his wife and children; he can do no 
good here or anywhere else; I believe your Excellency had 
better keep some of the young men, who have no wife or 
children to care for, and let the old fellow go home with 
me." 



CHAPTER V. 



END OF THE FKENCH "WAR. 



The campaign of 1759 opened new prospects to 
the English arms on this continent. Then for the 
first time the ministry saw that they had a chance to 
make up for their past reverses, and it gave them 
hope and courage accordingly. 

During this year, Major Putnam was promoted to 
the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; a rank which no 
one will dispute he had richly earned with his pa- 
triotic and self-denying services. The ministry re- 
called Abercrombie, on account of his manifest in- 
efficiency, and placed in his stead, General Amherst, 
a man in every respect his superior, and well worthy 
of the high confidence that was reposed in him. 

During this year General Wolfe fell on the Plains 
of Abraham, before Quebec, in the midst of victory. 
It was a brilliant victory gained, but it cost the army 
and England dearly. Wolfe was a commander who 
could be ill spared from any army. In one sense, he 
threw his life away in carrying forward this daring 
assault upon Quebec, since he felt that the ministry 

93 



94 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

were already dissatisfied with one shortcoming of 
which he was guilty, and he now wished to prove 
to them that they had not placed their confidence in 
him to no purpose.* 

Ticonderoga and Crown Point -j- likewise fell be- 
fore the approach of Gen. Amherst, who had but 
to make his appearance before those most important 
posts, in order to insure their ready surrender and 
evacuation. The commander at Ticonderoga saw 

* James Wolfe (1726-1759), served in the English army 
in Germany during several years of the Seven Years' War. 
Being transferred to America he was prominent in the 
capture of Fort Louisbourg. His crowning feat was the 
capture of Quebec, one of the most romantic incidents in 
the history of warfare. At the talking of Quebec, both he 
and the French commander, the Marquis of Montcalm, 
were mortally wounded. 

t General Amherst, taught by the disaster that befell 
his predecessor, Abercrombie, approached Ticonderoga with 
the greatest caution. Having disembarked his forces in the 
neighborhood, he prudently constructed intrenchments and 
awaited the arrival of his cannon. The French command- 
ant, accounting prudence the better part of valor, evacuated 
the fort, having first ignited a fuse that was to explode the 
magazine. The explosion occurred just before midnight, 
July 26, 1759. Only one bastion was destroyed and the 
main part of the fort was uninjured. Amherst's men soon 
entered and fought the fire that was destroying the bar- 
racks, and quickly repaired the damage done to the fort. 
Crown Point was likewise abandoned by the French within 
a few days. The fortifications at this place had so fallen 
into decay that Amherst began the construction of a new 
fort instead of repairing the old one. The French re- 
treated to Fort Isle aux Noix in the Sorel. 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 95 

very soon that lie had some one else than 'Abercrom- 
bie, of the year before, to deal with, and capitulated 
without offering to strike a blow. 

Putnam accompanied Amherst in his expedition 
during this year both to Ticonderoga and Crown 
Point ; and his services were not a whit behind what 
they had been heretofore for promptness and general 
value. He had as much to do, personally, as any 
other individual, in strengihening the works about 
Crown Point; and superintended them with his cus- 
tomary vigilance and skill. 

In 1760 the English ministry sent word over that 
they wished Amherst to strike one vigorous and final 
blow, and so reduce the Canadas altogether. Am- 
herst therefore projected his famous expedition 
against Montreal, which was now the only other im- 
portant post to which attention remained to be di- 
rected. He divided the army into three parts; one 
started for Quebec, under Gen. Murray, who was at 
the head of the force before commanded by the la- 
mented Wolfe ; a second moved forward from Crown 
Point, by way of Isle-Aux-J^oix, under the command 
of Col. Haviland ; and the third was put in motion by 
Gen. Amherst himself, who passed up the Mohawk 
Valley, and thence to Oswego, at which place a force 
of a thousand Indians, under Sir William Johnson, 
was added, making some eleven thousand in all. 



96 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Lieut. Col. Putnam went with the Commander-in- 
Chief. 

The plan was, to have all their forces arrive before 
Montreal upon the same day, if possible. Amherst 
embarked on Lake Ontario, captured a fort on his 
way, and happened to arrive before Montreal on the 
very same day on which Gen. Murray reached that 
point from Quebec. It was a happy coincidence. 
What was still more fortunate. Col. Haviland came 
up with his Crown Point troops on the very next day ! 
The concerted design so far certainly worked ad- 
mirably. 

The Marquis de Vaudreuil was in command at 
Montreal, and he had prepared himself to withstand, 
as he thought, any assault that might be made upon 
the city. But as soon as he saw the vastly superior 
army that had suddenly made its appearance against 
him, and from three different quarters at the same 
time, he determined to offer terms of capitulation. 
They were accepted without any delay, or any blood- 
shed, and Montreal became the possession of the Eng- 
lish. From that day, of course, the Canadas passed 
into other hands. It was the crowning act of all the 
rest. After so many trials and reverses, it had re- 
sulted gloriously for the English arms at the last. 

It was while Lieut. Col. Putnam was passing up 
with Gen. Amherst to the attack on Montreal, that 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 97 

he performed the feat that is recorded of him at the 
fort on Isle Royal. It was necessary for Amherst to 
capture this fort, since it would not be safe to leave 
such a fortress in the hands of the enemy behind him. 
The fort was named Oswegatchie, and was built on 
the island at the entrance of the river of the same 
name. Two armed vessels faithfully guarded the 
entrance, and likewise swept the whole stream. Un- 
less these were put out of the way, Amherst could not 
hope to proceed. 

While the General was pondering on the way in 
which he could get out of his dilemma, Putnam pro- 
posed to go and take the vessels himself. " How ? " 
asked his surprised commander. " With a beetle and 
wedges," answered the courageous Putnam. The 
General knew what a character Putnam had proved 
himself to be before, and gave him authority to go 
ahead, though he did not believe that anything would 
come of it. Putnam took a few men with him in a 
boat, and after nightfall started off in the silence and 
darkness. Getting under the vessels' sterns unper- 
ceived, he drove the wedges in on each side of their 
rudders, and thus prevented their obeying the will of 
any pilot on deck. Both the vessels were driven 
ashore by the wind, being helpless in the hands of 
their commanders, and struck at once to the summons 
pf the English officers, who were ready to meet them 

7 



98 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

as soon as their crews landed. This incident has 
been very strongly denied by many, yet there is 
enough foundation for it in fact to make it worth 
telling.* 

In the year 1762, England found herself consider- 
ably shorn of her strength, and coalitions between 
some of the other nations of the continent were ap- 
parently forming against her. Spain was quite ready 
to co-operate with France in her endeavor to regain 
what she had thus far lost in America. The colonies 
were required to furnish still more men in order to 
meet this new movement. In February, 1762, the 
French island, Martinique, one of the West Indies, 
was captured by the British. The Caribbees, too, 
were all taken by the same power. And finally a 
large naval force, consisting of nearly forty vessels, 

* This story is accepted as true by so careful a historian 
as John Fiske. The running of the various rapids of the 
St. Lawrence river was an exciting and costly experience. 
P"'orty-six boats were totally wrecked, and eighteen badly 
damaged, and eighty-four men were drowned. Near Mon- 
treal, at the seat of an Indian mission, Putnam found the 
Indian Caughnawaga, who had captured him two years 
before. Of the meeting between the erstwhile enemies, 
Humphreys writes: "That Indian was highly delighted to 
see his old acquaintance, whom he entertained in his well 
built stone house with great friendship and hospitality; 
while his guest did not discover less satisfaction in an op- 
portunity of shaking the brave savage by the hand and 
proffering him protection in this reverse of his military 
fortunes." 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 99 

and counting ten thousand men, were sent against 
Havana. They succeeded in landing upon the island 
of Cuba, but could not make anv headway. A pesti- 
lence broke out among the troops, to whom the tropi- 
cal climate was entirely unsuited, and in less than 
two months more than half of their number were 
swept off. 

Reinforcements, however, came along in good time 
from the colonies, consisting of over two thousand 
men in all, of whom Connecticut alone furnished one 
thousand under command of Gen. Lyman.* He hav- 
ing afterwards been appointed commander of the en- 
tire Provincial force, Lieut. Col. Putnam accordingly 
took command of the Connecticut regiment. They 
experienced very severe weather on their way to 
Cuba, and the ship-load under Putnam was finally 
wrecked off the coast. Putnam displayed all his cus- 
tomary coolness during the gale, giving orders to 
the men, and preserving strict discipline throughout 
the fearful scene. The men constructed rafts, which 
were launched and sent ashore successfully. By tho 
aid of the, line thus secured to the land, the rafts were 
kept going and coming to and from the ship, and all 
the troops were at length landed in safety. Putnam 

* General Lyman was a valuable officer. His death in 
1775 prevented his taking an important part in the war of 
the Revolution. 

:L.ofC. 



100 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

constructed fortifications for his camp, and waited 
until the storm subsided, when the troops re-em- 
barked, and in a few days arrived at Havana. 

The harbor of this famous ocean city is defended 
by two forts ; on the east, the Morro, and on the west, 
the Punto. The British commander, Albemarle, be- 
sieged the former with nearly fifteen thousand men. 

The siege was protracted, and put the soldiers to 
their highest endurance. After overcoming many 
and fearful obstacles, they succeeded in effecting a 
lodgment in a certain part of the fortress, when they 
sprung a mine previously prepared and threw down 
enough of the masonry to give them a chance to enter. 
The work of storming was then carried forward with 
vigor and success. About five hundred of the sur- 
prised Spanish garrison were killed,* and the rem- 
nant were forced to beg for quarter, which of course 
was granted. 

Having thus obtained possession of this fortress, 
which had hitherto been deemed impregnable, the 
British were able to command the city, against wliich 
they accordingly pointed their cannon. The gov- 
ernor general refused to surrender, whereupon Lord 
Albemarle opened a fire upon the town. This speed- 
ily brought his Excellency to terms. He offered to 
accept such terms of capitulation as the British might 

* The English loss was only two oflBcers and thirty men. 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 101 

see fit to propose. The harbor and city of Havana, 
together with about a quarter of the whole island of 
Cuba thus fell into the hands of the British, whose 
arms were afterwards properly respected by the 
powers that had dared to combine against them.* 
From this day, peace began to assume a permanent 
character on this continent, for which the harassed 
colonies, that had all the while been heroically fight- 
ing the battles of the mother country, were not the 
least grateful, f 

It was now a century and a half that this struggle 

* The lion's share of the prize money went mostly to the 
higher officers, but the subordinates got something, and Put- 
nam received enough to increase substantially his apparent 
fortune in the little town of Pomfret. For an account of 
the grant of land to the veterans, which was allowed several 
years later, see below, p. 44. 

Putnam also brought home with him, as a trophy of the 
war, a negro, Dick by name, whom he had rescued from a 
cruel beating at the hands of an angry Spanish master. 
The grateful negro would not leave his rescuer and was a 
picturesque sight about Pomfret for many years. Among 
the spoils of this encounter was the cane which the Span- 
iard had used as the instrument of chastisement. This 
cane was used by Putnam until his death, and he be- 
queathed it. to Dick who was deservedly proud of it. 

t The Treaty of Paris was signed February 10, 1763. By 
this treaty France ceded to England (among other terri- 
tories) " Nova Scotia, Canada, and the country east of the 
Mississippi as far as Iberville, Louisiana. A line drawn 
through the Mississippi river, from its source to its mouth, 
was henceforth to form the boundary line between the 
possessions of the two nations, except that the town and 
island of New Orleans were not to be included in this 



102 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

had been going on between France and England for 
the mastery of this continent. It had finally been de- 
cided in favor of the latter power; and it was now 
expected that France would acquiesce, and that war 
would come to an end. The Indians were not sup- 
posed to be interested in continuing the warfare, since 
neither nation would be likely any longer to require 
their services. Yet this opinion proved to be a mis- 
taken one. They had a yearning desire to regain the 
lands they had lost to the white race, and so made a 
final stand for that purpose. The colonial govern- 
ors held repeated conferences with some of the In- 
dian chiefs, and tried to pacify them by assuring 
them of their friendship ; but the red men did not like 
the looks of the forts with which the English were 
encircling their territories. Accordingly several of 
the tribes concerted to make a vigorous attack upon 
their common enemy, and did succeed in surprising 
and capturing a number of their forts ; some of them 
of great importance. At the head of this warlike 
movement was the well-known Indian chief, Pon- 
tiac* 

cession. France also ceded the island of Cape Breton, 
with the isles and coasts of the St. Lawrence." 

* Pontiac (1712?-1769) was a chief of the Ottawa tribe. 
He was the leader of this coalition of Indian tribes against 
the English, and the war that resulted is known as Pon- 
tiac's War, 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 103 

Under his lead, the savages intended to extend 
their power along the line of the great lakes, grad- 
ually surrounding the English and hemming them in. 
Amherst thereupon hastened to concentrate his forces 
at the several forts on the frontier, and made ready to 
repel them. Captain Dalzell made his way through 
the forest to the fort at Detroit, which was already 
surrounded by the Indians; after which, he sallied 
forth again and gave them battle, in the early gray 
of the morning. In his generous and brave endeavor 
to rescue one of his wounded officers, he was shot 
by the enemy, and they both fell dead together. 

The next year. Col. Putnam went to the frontier 
with a Connecticut regiment, which consisted of four 
hundred men. In this expedition, also, went Brant, 
the famous Indian partisan. The savages still sur- 
rounded Detroit, preventing the garrison from mov- 
ing out at all, by which means they had become sadly 
reduced in provisions and energy. A little schooner 
had been sent with a load of provisions to their relief, 
which was attacked fiercely by the Indians, but had 
managed by good luck to escape. With the timely 
help thus offered, the commander was able to hold out 
until reinforcements arrived. As soon as the savages 
were assured that these latter were approaching, they 
began to disperse through the forest, afraid to risk 
a battle. In the course of the same season, too, a per- 



104 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

manent peace was finally made with them, and thus 
the terrors of war ceased over the land. 

Col. Putnam wrote a letter from the frontier to a 
friend in Norwich, Connecticut, — Major Drake, — 
setting forth the condition of affairs at the time in 
the camp. It is exceedingly interesting, and contains 
a lively record of the transactions in his locality. It 
was published in the Boston Gazette, in December, 
1764. 

The wars having happily come to an end, and 
all rumors of wars having ceased throughout the 
land. Col. Putnam found himself once more settled 
peacefully upon his Connecticut farm, rejoiced to 
return to those pleasanter pursuits that are especially 
deliglitful to men tired of the profession of arms. 
He had been an active soldier for ten years. He had 
no knowledge of military science, or strategy, when 
he began, but when he returned again to the peaceful 
pursuits of agriculture, he was in possession of an ex- 
perience that was worth all the strictly technical dis- 
cipline in the world. In fact, he had thus impercep- 
tibly been training for that other and wider field on 
which he appeared to such advantage, and whereon he 
achieved such deeds of high renown, — the battle-field 
of the American Revolution. 

^Vliat he had learned by this rough and rugged ex- 
perience of the seven years' war, was all his own. It 



END OF THE FRENCH WAR. 105 

was worth everything, both to himself and his conn- 
try. It was around such a man that his fellow citi- 
zens would be likely to rally in an emergency like 
that which arose a little more than ten years after- 
wards. He could inspire them by his ardor, and en- 
thusiasm, and patriotic purpose, — and he could also 
hold them together in solid and resistless masses, by 
the naked power of his character, his example, and 
his will. 

He had not been home long, when his wife sick- 
ened and died. It was a terrible blow for him, and 
the grief that grew out of it gnawed sorely at his 
manly heart. She was the wife of his youth. They 
had lived together as man and wife for a quarter of a 
century. It was a cruel snapping asunder, therefore, 
of the tenderest ties that can hold two human souls 
together.* 

* The death of Putnam's daughter Elizabeth, in her 
eighteenth year, occurred January 24, 1765. Mrs. Putnam 
died on the 6th day of April following. These afHictions 
seem to have awakened the religious feelings of Putnam, 
for he united with the Congregational church. May 19, of 
the same year. 



CHAPTEK VI. 

OPENING OF THE EEVOLTJTION. 

It is to be supposed, at this day, that every one 
who can read understands the causes that led the 
American people to take up arms against the mother 
country. They had sacrificed everything for the sake 
of preserving her honor ; they had generously fought 
her battles ; her name and renown were as dear to 
them as it could be to a son of England born: — but 
the same spirit that made them such devoted sons, 
rendered it likewise impossible for them to be craven 
suppliants, begging for favors. 

King George the Third was possessed of an idea 
that the American colonies were chiefly useful to 
his throne for the revenues which they could be made 
to pay into the royal treasury. Both himself and his 
successive cabinets entertained that mistaken idea, 
and attempted to practice upon it in administering 
the government for their foreign colonies. And out 
of this very mistake grew the American Revolution. 
It began with a feeling of dissatisfaction at first ; then 
followed protests ; next, talk of outright refusal to do 

106 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 107 

what was commanded; then the refusal itself, which 
was rebellion ; and finally the great and simultaneous 
movement assumed the dignified form and character 
of a Revolution. This same American Revolution 
marks one of the brightest and most hallowed spots 
on the page of History. 

In the first place, the British ministry had caused 
to be issued what were styled Writs of Assistance, 
which were ordered for the purpose of hunting up and 
seizing wherever found, any articles that had been 
smuggled into the colonies from on ship-board, with- 
out paying the tax imposed on them. Several of the 
eloquent and bold orators of the day, including such 
men as Otis and Adams, fiercely denounced the high- 
handed measure, and counselled public disobedience 
of the order. As a necessary result, such goods as 
were found to have been brought into the colonies 
without having paid the regular duties, were at once 
seized, wherever found, and sold; which would be 
likely rather to add to the flame of public feeling 
already burning, than to assist in allaying its fervent 
heat. 

It was Grenville who first laid the plan to di- 
rectly tax the American colonies, who was at the time 
King George's prime minister. Everywhere the prop- 
osition was met with the most indignant denuncia- 
tions. But all this seemed to make no difference. In- 



108 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

asmuch as the people of America had determined that 
it was both odious and wrong that they should be 
taxed for the benefit of the mother country, the min- 
istry determined in their blind obstinacy that they 
should be taxed all the sooner for having dared to ex- 
press their opinions. It was a matter of will, from 
the beginning. The English government meant to 
rule the people of the colonies by the mere strength 
of its win. But after many long years, and a weary 
struggle against obstacles whose force the world will 
never fully understood, that imperious will was hum- 
bled and broken. The people triumphed, as, with the 
right on their side, they ever must prevail. 

The passage of the Stamp Act,* in the year 1'7G5, 
brought the matter to something like a head. As 
soon as the news was received in this country, the ex- 

* The well known Stamp Act was passed in 1765. This 
was a species of internal revenue, and required that all 
bills, leases, and many other such documents used in the 
colonies, should be written on stamped paper to be sold only 
by oflScers of the English government. The tax was 
not excessive, it was certainly less than the British sub- 
jects residing in England paid cheerfully. But the Ameri- 
cans at once went to the heart of the matter and denied 
the right of parliament to tax them at all. The Stamp Act 
was simply the last straw; it broke the back of the endur- 
ance of the colonists, it brought them to the fighting point. 
All through the colonies the cry was raised, " No taxation 
without representation," and the cry was never silenced. 
That principle lay, and still lies, at the foundation of 
American independence. 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 109 

citement and indignation knew no bounds. The cit^ 
izens of Boston and Philadelphia caused the bells to 
be tolled, in token of their grief. The people of New 
York marched in procession through the streets, bear- 
ing a copy of the odious Act, with the representation 
of a death's head attached to it, before them, to which 
they appended the motto — " The Folly of England, 
and the Ruin of America." The stamped papers that 
were sent over, were seized and destroyed; and the 
agents of the government, who were appointed to ex- 
ecute the law, were forced to throw up their offices. 

Col. Putnam entered into the general spirit of re- 
sistance to such tyrannical exactions, with all tlie 
ardor of his warm and honest nature. He was active 
in stirring up his fellow citizens on all sides to re- 
sistance. He likewise forwarded, by every means in 
his power, the plans that were formed among the col- 
onies for harmony of action in this most important 
matter.* . 

Mr. Ingersoll had been appointed the stamp mas- 
ter for Connecticut; and Putnam, with others, was 

* A patriotic secret society was about this time estab- 
lished among the workingmen, known as the Sons of Lib- 
erty. Of this society Putnam was a very energetic member, 
and he used the society as a very effective means of dis- 
seminating far and wide the hostility against the Stamp 
Act. It is said that he had control of ten thousand armed 
men, who had " pledged to the utmost lives and fortunes to 
prevent the Stamp Act being enforced." 



110 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

determined not to let him enter upon tlie duties of 
bis office. The committee who waited upon him, re- 
quested him to resign ; but as he did not answer them 
with a Yes or a '^o, they proceeded to take steps to 
make him comply with their wishes. Putnam was 
an active adviser in the entire movement. He had re- 
cently been laid up by an accident himself, but he 
gave particular directions how to proceed. A body 
of men were collected in the eastern part of the col- 
ony, who marched to Hartford, where they were 
told that Mr. Ingersoll would be present on the follow- 
ing day. He was reported to be then on his way 
from l^ew Haven. Instantly the party started off 
to meet him by the way. They came upon him at 
Wethersfield, where they made him sign his own res- 
ignation, and certify likewise that he did so " of his 
own free will and accord, and without any equivoca- 
tion or mental reservation." They then stood him 
on a table, compelled him to read aloud the pa^^er he 
had just signed, and afterwards to shout three times 
• — " Liberty and Property ! " The crowd responded 
with due heartiness, honored him with a public din- 
ner, and then escorted * him in safety to Hartford, 

* This Mr. Ingersoll did not fail to utter a grim joke upon 
this occasion. The horse which he rode was white, and the 
cavalcade that escorted him presented a motley appearance. 
Referring to this incongruous scene, he declared that he 
now understood the meaning in the book of Revelation (vi: 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. HI 

■where he publicly read his resignation a second time, 
to the delight and satisfaction of everybody who had 
turned out to hear it. There was not the least hard 
feeline: over it, but the whole transaction was relished 
as a capital joke, — which it certainly was; besides 
being, likewise, a determined piece of business. 

Col. Putnam subsequently had a personal inter- 
view with the colonial Governor resj)ecting the im- 
possibility of enforcing so hateful an act of parlia- 
ment, which was perfectly characteristic of the in- 
trepid temper of the man. The Governor asked Put- 
nam what he should do with the stamped paper, if it 
should be entrusted to him by the King's authority. 
" Lock it up," answered Putnam, " and give us * the 
key." His excellency wished to know what next. 
" We will send you the key safely again," said Put- 
nam. " But if I should refuse you admission to the 
room where it is kept ? " asked the Governor. " Then 
w^e shall tear down your house for you ! " replied the 
determinecl hero of the seven years' war. The story 
of this interview of Putnam with the Governor got 
abroad, and no stamped paper was ever sent into 
the Connecticut colony. So loud were the protests, 
and so open was the defiance exhibited on the part of 

8) which describes " Death on a pale horse and hell folloW' 

ing him ! " 

* XJs refers to the Sons of Liberty. 



112 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the colonists, that the ministry finally concluded to 
review their former determination, and the Stamp 
Act was accordingly annulled. As soon as the wel- 
come news reached this country, the change in the 
public feeliug was too marked not to be heeded with 
thoughtful care by the ministry. Thanksgivings and 
rejoicings were offered on every side. Gladness 
beamed from every countenance. The talk of the 
people was now of their renewed affection for Eng- 
land and the King, and the general heart settled down 
into the calm joy that attends upon peace. 

Trade instantly revived, and prosperity reigned. 
So violent a storm was succeeded by so placid a 
calm, that it makes one happy even at this distant 
day to contemplate it. Col. Putnam resumed his 
usual occupations on his farm again, and in their 
pursuit reaped the rich rewards that attend upon in- 
telligent and contented labor. He met with one 
or two quite severe accidents,* during this season of 
peace, from which he never wholly recovered. It was 
at this time, too, that he added the calling of inn- 
keeper to that of a farmer, and gave public notice that 
he was ready to accommodate the travelling public in 

* The first of these accidents was the loss of the first joint 
of the thumb of his right hand. Scarcely had this healed 
when he sustained a compound fracture of his right thigh. 
This never properly healed, for his right leg was ever after 
nearly an inch shorter than his left. 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 113 

the most faithful way he knew how ; and a very popu- 
lar host he proved himself, too.* People were fond 
of partaking of the generous cheer with which he al- 
ways made their coming welcome. He hung out his 
sign from one of the elm trees before his door, upon 
which was represented General Wolfe — the youthful 
hero of Quebec — in military uniform, with his right 
arm pointing at something in the distance, and a most 
earnest and enthusiastic expression uj)on his face. 
This sign is now in the possession of the Historical 
Society of Connecticut, at their rooms in Hartford. 

* On June 3, 1767, Putnam married Mrs. Gardiner. It 
was her third marriage as it was his second, and each 
party brought to the other a goodly brood of grown, or half- 
grown, children. Of the new life thus begun, Ellen D. 
Larned thus writes: "Mrs. Putnam had a large circle of 
friends and much experience. Her husband was the most 
popular man of the day. Their hospitable home drew 
throngs of visitants. Every soldier passing through Wind- 
ham County would go out of his way to call on his beloved 
Colonel. Relatives, friends, travelling ministers, distin- 
guished strangers, and gushing patriots came in such num- 
bers that their entertainment became very burdensome. A 
Virginian Jefferson would submit to such an invasion, 
though it made him bankrupt; a Yankee Putnam could 
contrive to turn it into profit or at least save himself from 
ruin. Finding that his estate could not support such an 
excessive outlay, Putnam met the emergency with one of 
his sudden strokes, removed his residence to the Avery 
estate on Brooklyn Green [Brooklyn now adjourns Pom- 
fret on the south, but at that time it formed part of Pom- 
fret] and opened his house for general public accommoda- 
tion." 

8 



114 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

The iron staples are still to be seen, driven into the 
old tree that waves its green crown, every summer, 
before the place where stood his hospitable mansion.* 
Gen. Lyman, the old commander of Putnam, went 
to England about these times, to draw the prize 
money that belonged to the men who served under 
him in the expedition against Havana. After many 
years' vexatious delay, he finally succeeded in pro- 
curing the amount due them, and returned home. A 
few of the officers had it in their minds to take their 
money and purchase a tract of land west of the Mis- 
sissippi. Putnam accordingly joined the party, and 
started off into the wilderness to locate his purchase 
with the rest.f They sailed to the site upon which 

* Putnam helped to build the meeting house which still 
stands there. He was appointed sexton, a position which 
at that time must have been regarded as a decided honor. 
His salary was three pounds for the year, and his chief 
duties were to ring the bell on Sabbaths' Fasts, Thanks- 
givings, and at Lectures as is customary at other places 
where they have bells; also to ring it at 12 o'clock noon, 
and 9 at night." 

t During this trip Putnam kept a dairy, which is still in 
existence and is interesting for more reasons than one. A 
few entries are here transcribed without change in the 
spelling, for the edification of the reader. The month is 
December of 1772. The " heal gait " in the first entry 
stands for Hell Gate. 
" Sunday ye 20 

pased heal gait and had all like to have ben lost by 
reason of a bad pilot but got through Wei — Arrived at 
New york about 12 aclock — in the afternone went to hear 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 115 

New Orleans now stands, pushed up the Mississippi, 
laid out the boundaries of their new colony, and re- 
turned home again to take the necessary steps to send 
forward emigrants. General Lyman did return to 
the place the next year, and founded a settlement 
where l!^atchez stands today. Here he passed the re- 
mainder of his days. Putnam sent forward men for 
a time in his stead, and furnished them with means 
to bring his own portion of the lands speedily under 
cultivation. But other work was in immediate re- 
serve for him, than that of leading forth a young 
colony to the banks of the father of waters. Events 
were thickening, and causes were ripening, and every 
sign gave promise that some great epoch in history 
was close at hand. 

Doctor rogos preach 

Monday ye 21 

Capt. Laidley and Capt. Godrich Sat about rigeng and 

Loding ye vesel 

tusday ye 22 

it proved varey raney so that thare was but leatel to 

be don 

Wednesday ye 23 

good weathor all hands at worke preparing the vesel 

thorsday 24 

varey raney and Durtey weather but leatel Don 

friday ye 25 

crismos day — nothing to be Don hear — not so much as 

is gineraley one Sunday in this part of ye World 

Satorday ye 26 

hollow Days heare." 



116 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Although it could be urged that the odious Stamp 
Act had been repealed, yet the British Parliament 
passed a declaratory act, to the effect that the mother 
country had the right to tax the colonies, which right 
slie should exercise just when she saw proper. Mr. 
Pitt was laid up with the gout at his country scat, 
and Mr. Townsend, who w^as chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer in his absence, brought forward a bill to levy 
duties on paper, glass, painters' colors, and teas. IIo 
also proposed a measure which aimed to appoint 
boards of trade in the different colonies, entirely in- 
dependent of the colonial legislatures ; which was as 
offensive as any measure of the sort well could be. 

To these plans the people of America showed as 
much resistance as ever. They began to get ready to 
oppose them, if the necessity finally came, with force 
itself. The men of experience, therefore, like Col. 
Putnam, took great interest in organizing and drill- 
ing bands of young men, feeling that the time was 
not far off when soldiers would be chiefly needed. 
This was in the year 1767. The orators and leading 
men exerted all their influence to arouse the people 
to a true sense of their degradation and wrongs. As- 
sociations were formed all over the country, to fur- 
ther the plans of resistance. The people refused to 
have any intercourse whatever with the mother coun- 
try. The women denied themselves everything like 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 117 

foreign luxuries and exerted themselves to make up 
clothing with their own hands for their sons, hus- 
bands, and fathers. A spirit of opposition pervaded 
all classes of society. Even tea was interdicted, by 
general agreement, from the table, because the women 
would not drink what would help establish the power 
of England. The excitement grew greater every day. 
The crisis was approaching. One thought seemed to 
control the public mind, — one resolve fired the popu- 
lar heart. 

The British government of course began now to 
bear down all the harder. They stationed soldiers in 
the halls where the colonial legislatures met, in order 
to break up their sittings. But these bodies imme- 
diately assembled in other places, with still stronger 
determination to resist the tyranny of the mother 
country. The troops goaded the colonists almost be- 
yond endurance. At last an outbreak did occur in 
King street in Boston, — noAV State street, — on the 
5th of March, 1770 ; when the soldiery fired upon the 
citizens, and killed several ; the first person who fell 
was a stout mulatto fellow at the head of a party of 
sailors, whose name was Crispus Attucks. Two 
others were killed on the spot, and two more died a 
few days afterward. There had been trouble brew- 
ing for some time between the town people and the 
soldiers, and on the evening of the day just mentioned 



118 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the first outbreak occurred. Early the next morning, 
Faneuil Hall was crowded with excited citizens, who 
determined that every foreign soldier should be with- 
drawn immediately from Boston. No men were 
more bold in their denunciations of the soldiery than 
James Otis and Samuel Adams. This event occurred 
on Friday night; the citizens met at Faneuil Hall 
on Saturday morning; and on the Monday following 
the troops were withdrawn and sent to Castle Wil- 
liam, in the harbor, and the city became composed 
and quiet again. There were most imposing ceremon- 
ies at the burial of the victims of this sudden fight, 
and the " Boston Massacre " was a bloody story that 
served to stir still more deeply the hearts of the peo- 
ple to open resistance. 

General Gage was the Eoyal Governor of Massa- 
chusetts Province at this time, and was well known 
to Putnam during the French and Indian war. 
There were others also in Boston, whom he had in- 
timately known by means of the same companionship. 
He was frequently there about these days, and during 
the prevalence of the troubles that ushered in the Rev- 
olution. His voice was heard on all important oc- 
casions, not more by his own countrymen than bv 
the British officers with whom he had before been a 
companion in arms. He openly counselled one 
party to resistance, and he expostulated with the 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 119 

other, but to no purpose. The British officers asked 
him on which side he should be found, in case it 
should come to open war. " I shall be found on the 
side of mj country always ! " — was his prompt and 
spirited reply. They inquired of him again, how 
large an army it would take to conquer the country; 
in other words, if five thousand soldiers could not 
march the length and breadth of it, and not be 
troubled by the inhabitants ? " If they behaved them- 
selves, they could," was his answer ; " but if they 
did not, and no men were at hand, the American 
women would drive them out of the country with 
broomsticks ! " * 

As the difficulties increased, and less and less grew 
the probabilities that there could for a much longer 
time be kept up even the appearance of peace with the 
mother country, committees of vigilance were or- 

* The account of this affair as narrated by Humphreys, 
who, it will be remembered, received his information di- 
rect from Putnam, is more striking than the one given 
above : — 

" Being once, in particular, asked ' whether he did not 
seriously believe that a well appointed British army of 
five thousand veterans could march through the whole 
continent of America?' he replied briskly, 'no doubt, if 
they behaved civilly, and paid well for everything they 
wanted; ' 'but' — after a moment's pause added — 'if they 
should attempt it in a hostile manner (though the Ameri- 
can men were out of the question) the women, with their 
ladles and broomsticks, would knock them all on the head 
before they had got half way through.' " 



120 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ganized in the different colonies, whose duty it was 
to hold frequent correspondence with one another, 
acquaint the different sections of the country with 
what was going on, and perfect such schemes for re- 
sistance as might finally be of the greatest service. 
Col. Putnam was very efficient upon one of these com- 
mittees in Connecticut, and kept the people thor- 
oughly apprised of what was going forward. Besides 
this, he gave much time to organizing the men about 
him into companies, and to drilling them to the stern 
service which was so soon to be required at their 
hands. On one occasion, in September, 1774, he was 
the means of creating a false alarm, which called out 
the people all along the line between ISTew York and 
Boston, so that the roads were covered. The story 
was that blood had been shed in Boston by the British 
troops, and every heart beat warmly to avenge the 
public wrongs. It is said that as many as thirty or 
forty thousand men flew instantly to arms, believing 
that the British were firing upon the town of Boston. 
Gen. Gage saw what an excitement the rumor had 
created, and knew from this the temper of the colon- 
ists ; and therefore concluded to fortify himself in his 
position without further delay. The moment this 
alarm was given. Col. Putnam mounted his horse and 
started off for Boston ; but being met on the way by 
a captain of militia, he learned that the whole story 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 121 

was false, and turned about and rode home again, 
reaching his house at sunrise on Sunday morning. 
The rumor grew out of the British force having si- 
lently sailed up the Mystic river during the night, 
and carried off all the powder that was stored in the 
arsenal at Charlestown. 

When the conflict with the power of England fin- 
ally came on, it was not even then supposed by the 
colonists that it would involve their total separation 
from the mother country ; indeed, they had not once 
seriously thought of such a result, except to deplore 
it. They merely resolved to resist, perhaps believ- 
ing that England would in time relent in her tyranni- 
cal demands, and give them enduring peace and pros- 
perity. Still, let the consequences be what they 
might, they would at least resist. And while show- 
ing such a spirit, the King resolved that they should 
be forced into submission. It is not at all likely that 
British statesmen generally knew or cared much 
about the feelings of the people of this country; nor 
did the King, or his ministers, know or care any 
more. The whole plan was to extort money enough 
from the ITorth American colonies to assist in defray- 
ing the enormous expenses of the British Govern- 
ment. The debates in Parliament on the state of 
America were very meagre, showing that scarcely any 



122 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

interest was taken in the question, that was at all 
commensurate with its importance. 

Troops were quartered wherever the British power 
thought their presence necessary. The difficulties be- 
gan in Boston. Gen. Gage having occupied the town 
with his soldiers, and broken up the Assembly of Mas- 
sachusetts, it met elsewhere, and styled itself a Prov- 
incial Congress. Committees of Safety were ap- 
pointed, and it was instantly voted to raise an army 
of twelve thousand men. Minute men were also en- 
rolled, to be ready to march at a moment's warning. 
Arms and ammunition were secured as rapidly as cir- 
cumstances would allow. While affairs were in this 
situation. Gen. Gage despatched an expedition of 
eight hundred men to Concord, twenty miles from 
Boston, to destroy the ammunition and stores that 
were known to be there collected. This was the night 
of the 18th of April, 1775. He was very secret in 
his operations, yet not so secret as to elude the vigi- 
lance of the colonists, who were so closely watching 
them. Messages were despatched to points all along 
the route they would be likely to take, directing that 
measures should be instantly taken to oppose them. 

When the British, who were commanded by Col. 
Smith and Major Pitcairn, reached Lexington, which 
is about half-way betAveen Boston and Concord, it 
was just day-dawn on the 19th. They were of course 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 123 

very much astonished to find a handful of Americans 
— seventy in all — drawn up on the green to offer 
them resistance. Major Pitcairn rode up before them 
and called out in a tone of authority, thinking to in- 
timidate them, — " Disperse, you rebels ! Throw 
down your arms, and disperse ! " But they paid no 
heed to his order; whereupon he discharged his own 
pistol, and ordered his troops to fire into them. His 
order was instantly obeyed, and four of the Ameri- 
cans fell dead. The remainder rapidly scattered, of 
whom three more were slain in climbing over the 
fences. But they did not flee. They were joined by 
others, and very soon large bodies of militia were 
gathered in the vicinity, determined on making fur- 
ther resistance. The British force hurried on to 
Concord, captured a portion of the stores they found 
there, and retreated again as fast as they could, know- 
ing that the whole country round was getting thor- 
oughly excited against them. They had a slight skir- 
mish at Concord, during which two of the American 
and three of the British soldiers were killed, and 
several more were wounded. It was at the old North 
bridge,* and the spot is now pointed out to travellers 

* Emerson has written no finer lines than the opening 
stanza of his hymn on the Concord Fight: 

" By the rude bridge that arched the flood. 
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled. 
Here once the embattled farmers stood, 
And fired the shot heard round the world," 



124 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

•where two of the three British soldiers were slain, 
and where they still lie. They succeeded in destroy- 
ing a considerable amount of stores, and broke open 
sixty barrels of flour, of which they took pains to 
waste as much as they could. They likewise cut down 
the liberty-pole in the town, and set the court-house 
on fire; but a woman put out the fire before much 
damage had been done. 

Meantime the militia were collecting as fast as 
they could from all the towns around. So that when 
the British set out on their march back to Boston, 
they found themselves harassed in every conceivable 
way. From behind walls, and trees, and fences, and 
wherever other concealments offered, the Americans 
poured in a steady and well-directed fire upon them, 
which was terribly galling and destructive. The 
roadsides seemed to belch fire at their retreating and 
rapidly thinning ranks. Every tree concealed a mus- 
ket. They could not see their enemy so as to take 
aim at them, and were therefore placed at every pos- 
sible disadvantage. So rapid was the increase of the 
Americans, and so closely did they follow up the re- 
treating body of the British, that Col. Smith resolved 
to get back to Boston now with all possible despatch. 
At Lexington there was another severe skirmish, and 
so tired and jaded were the British, they thought 
they would be obliged to surrender. 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 125 

Fortunately for them, however, an express had 
been sent back to Gen. Gage in Boston, as soon as 
the British commander arrived at Lexington in the 
morning, acquainting him with the astonishing fact 
that the whole country was already in arms. So that 
when they reached Lexington again on their return 
from Concord, they were saved from surrender, or 
total destruction, only by the timely coming up of 
the nine hundred men whom Gen. Gage had sent 
forward in such hot haste. This detachment, which 
was commanded by Lord Percy, met the fatigued 
British about half a mile beyond Lexington. It was 
between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. As 
soon as they had formed a hollow square and re- 
ceived the retreating troops within its protecting 
lines, the latter fell down upon the ground from 
sheer exhaustion, panting and lolling their tongues 
out of their open mouths. After resting and refresh- 
ing themselves, both parties started on again for Bos- 
ton. They went out of their way to destroy, by burn- 
ing, two houses, two shops, and a barn, in Lexington, 
and then pushed on. But the provincials had been 
fast gathering, each man fighting for himself, and 
getting ready to pour in their fire again as soon as 
the British should resume their march. Pitcaim's 
horse was shot under him, and his pistols he was 
forced to leave behind in their holsters. They after- 



126 I-IFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

wards came into Gen. Putnam's possession. Their 
loss was verj severe, all the way. At West Cam- 
bridge they had another skirmish with the Americans, 
in which Dr. Joseph Warren, afterwards Gen. War- 
ren, came near being shot ; the ball knocking the pin 
out of an ear-curl in his hair. The British sacked, 
pillaged, and murdered, all along their bloody route 
to Boston. They came near being cut off entirely by 
reinforcements of the militia before they could reach 
Charlestown; but they at last succeeded in securing 
their safety. They camped on Bunker Hill that 
night, and on the next day went over to Boston, con- 
siderably broken in spirits, and convinced that an 
army of British could not march through the country 
unmolested. 

On that 19th of April, 1775, the British lost in all 
two hundred and seventy-three men, of whom sixty 
were slain ; the provincials lost one hundred and 
three, of whom fifty-nine were killed. It was not a 
gTcat fight in itself, but it was great and even grand 
in its consequences. On that day a Nation was born. 
Then the freemen of America learned, for the first 
time, how to stand and fight for their own liberties. 
An authentic statement of these occurrences was 
drawn up by the American Committee, and des- 
patched by a vessel from Salem direct to London. 
The latter city was soon in as wild an excitement, al- 




Putnam leaving liis plow in answer to the call to arms at news of the battle 
of Lexington. —Page 127. Life of Israel Puttinm. 



OPENING OF THE EEVOLUTION. 127 

most, as Boston was at the same moment. The min- 
istry were openly taunted in the streets, and told that 
" the Great British army at Boston had been beaten 
by a f,och of Yankees! " 

The news of the battles of this memorable day flew 
on the wings of the wind through the length and 
breadth of the country. A man came riding through 
the quiet town of Pomfret on horse-back, bearing a 
drum about his neck, and beating it and calling out to 
all whom he met, — " To arms ! To arms ! the first 
blood has been shed at Lexington ! " Putnam was 
ploughing in the field, at some distance back from his 
house, at the time, and Capt. Hubbard was also at 
work in the next lot. As soon as they found what 
was the cause for the alarm, they set out for the place .] 
where their services would be most likely to be 
wanted. Hubbard walked home, got ready his mili- 
tary accoutrements, and started off for Boston in his 
own systematic and moderate way. Putnam had his 
little son with him in the field. He at once unyoked 
his oxen and took them out of the furrow they were 
plowing, sent word to his wife by the boy where he 
had gone, took his fastest horse from his barn, and 
rode away at such a pace as we should have expected 
from a man of his well-known cliaracter.* 

* Daniel Putnam, then fifteen years old, was with his 
father, plowing in the field when the news of the battle 



y 



128 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

On the 21st he was at Cambridge, where he at- 
tended a council of war that was suddenly called to 
provide for the emergency. By that time, there were 
at least twenty thousand American troops gathered 
around Boston, It was resolved to fortify all the en- 
trances to the town without delay, and to watch the 
movements of the British very closely, Putnam was 
sent for by the Connecticut Legislature, which was 
then in session at Hartford, to confer with them. Ho 
hastened back, therefore, for that purpose, A regi- 
ment of troops was at once organized, and Putnam 
put at their head, with the title of Brigadier General, 
He hurried back to Cambridge, having been absent 
only a week. Several \vho served with him in the 
French war, now joined their services with his again 
in tlie struggle for independence. 

Gen. Ward was commander-general of all the 
forces, though such an old and tried soldier as Put- 
nam was looked up to with great respect and confi- 
dence by the whole body of the hastily collected mil- 

of Lexington arrived. He afterwards said that his father 
" loitered not but left me, the driver of his team, to un- 
yoke it in the furrow, and not many days after to follow 
him to camp." Putnam started off instantly and without 
stopping to change his clothes. He thus must have worn 
his farmer's w^orking shirt. Trumbull, and others who 
have painted him as at Bunker Hill, are correct in repre- 
senting him in his shirt sleeves, but wrong in giving him 
a white shirt. 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 129 

itia. It is proved that these two generals for a brief 
time divided the responsibility between them as they 
best could. Ward, too, had served along with Put- 
nam at the unfortunate storming of Ticonderoga, 
under Gen. Abercrombie; and thus strangely were 
they brought together again. The British officers did 
the best they could to bribe over the leading Ameri- 
cans. To Putnam they offered the rank of Major 
General in the British army, a large sum of money, 
and generous provision for his boys in the future. 
But his honest spirit spurned all their offers. He 
was not poor enough to consent to take bribes against 
the liberties of his own countrymen. 

Gage offered to let the Americans, who were still 
living in Boston, depart, on condition they would give 
up their arms ; but as soon as they had complied with 
his terms, he refused to keep his word. This only 
exasperated the militia so much the more. It was re- 
solved now to erect a line of fortifications all around 
Boston, stretching from Dorchester Heights to Chel- 
sea, a distance of about twelve miles. Into this work 
Gen. Putnam threw himself with all his usual energy. 
He had become well advanced in years by this time,* 
but his heart beat as quick as that of many men not 
half as old as he. The iutrenchments wore all thrown 

* He was fifty-seven years of age. His continued activity, 
on the farm and elsewhere kept his frame supple. 



130 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

up, and every care taken neither to allow a British 
soldier to pass through them from out of Boston, nor 
any supplies to be carried in. They therefore held 
the British in the town in a regular state of siege. 

Putnam sent a party of thirty men, on the 27th 
of May, over from Chelsea to Hog Island, to capture 
what live stock was there, that it might not be of ser- 
vice to the British for food. The water was not deep, 
and the men all waded over, and began to drive off the 
cattle. A party of marines were stationed there, how- 
ever, and a fight of course ensued with them. A 
schooner was at once sent from the fleet in the harbor, 
to help repel the bold American militia. But the 
party managed to secure their prize, and retreated in 
good order and with safety. Putnam afterwards 
joined them with a larger force, and after nine o'clock 
in the evening they brought a single cannon to bear on 
the schooner, completely disabling her, so that she 
drifted on shore ; and at day-break they took whatever 
there was valuable on board of her, and, after plac- 
ing hay under her stern, set her on fire. The British 
were deeply chagrined to see one of their vessels thus 
captured and burned by a little force on the land, but 
they were unable to help themselves. By this single 
manoeuvre, the Americans carried away many hun- 
dred sheep and cattle.* 

♦ " I wish," said Putnam to Generals Ward and Warren, 



OPENING OF THE REVOLUTION. 131 

On the 6th of June, it was agreed that an exchange 
of prisoners should be effected between the two arm- 
ies. Gen. Putnam and Dr. Warren acted on behalf 
of the Americans, and received the British party at 
Charlestown at about noon.* They marched under 
escort to the ferry, and upon a signal being given. 
Major Small and Major Moncrief, together with their 
prisoners, landed from the British vessel. Putnam 
had served with these British officers in the French 
and Indian war. They had not met since those for- 
mer days of hardship and intimacy. The moment 
they landed, therefore, they forgot all else, and rushed 
into one another's open arms. They embraced and 
kissed each other, while the people stood around and 
wondered what so strange a spectacle could mean. 
They afterwards passed an hour or two in social con- 

" we could have something of this kind to do every day; 
it would teach our men how little danger there is from 
cannon balls, for though they have sent a great many to 
us, nobody has been hurt by them. I would that Gage 
and his troops were within our reach, for we would be 
like hornets about their ears; as little birds follow and 
tease the eagle in his flight, we would every day contrive 
to make them uneasy." 

* Putnam was highly gratified that GFage should have 
consented to an exchange of prisoners. " He may call us 
Rebels now; if he will," said he, "but why then don't he 
hang his prisoners instead of exchanging them? By this 
act he has virtually placed us on an equality, and acknowl- 
edged our rigJit of resistance." 



132 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

verse, at the house of a gentleman near by, and at 
nightfall separated to meet again in hostile array, 
only ten days later, on the heights of Bunker Hill! 
So fierce is war, and so relentless is it in its de- 
mands. 



CHAPTER VII. 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 



It became necessary now for the Americans to for- 
tify Dorchester and Charlestown Heights, inasmuch 
as it had been given ont that the British general had 
resolved to do it himself. They could gain a great 
advantage, if they could by their celerity get the start 
of the British. The enemy evidently meant to 
strengthen their position by occupying Charlestown 
Heights, from which they could easily make an ir- 
ruption into the surrounding country. 

A council of war was therefore held at Cambridge, 
at which it was finally decided, though not all were 
in favor of the plan, to march over to Charlestown by 
night and hastily throw up a fortification. Putnam 
favored the design with all his influence and argu- 
ments. He urged, in the first place, that it would 
astonish the enemy to find themselves thus unex- 
pectedly outwitted ; and, in the next place, that even 
if it brought on an engagement, a battle would be the 
best possible thing for the militia that were then col- 
lected. They would rapidly learn discipline under 

X33 



134: LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

fire, and their ranks would close up with true military 
compactness from that day forward.* 

It was objected to this proposal, that there were 
then but sixty-seven barrels of powder to the whole 
army; and that it would be hardly less than insanity 
to bring on a general engagement, with such a trif- 
ling amount of ammunition. But Putnam pleaded to 
have the experiment tried. He feared nothing for the 
result. He knew very well that the Americans were 
all good marksmen, and that every soldier could kill 
his man. Gen, Warren tried to argue him out of 
his opinion; but Putnam, knowing what he did of 
war and its results to an undisciplined force, was con- 
vinced that a smart brush with the enemy would lead 
to the happiest consequences. 

Orders were therefore given by Major General 
Ward, — who was the commander of the Massachu- 
setts forces, and so by courtesy of the whole forces 
that were assembled around Boston, — to Col, Pres- 
cott, to go over to Charlestown on the night of the 
16th of June, and throw up such hasty intrenchments 



♦Daniel Putnam reports that he had often heard his 
father say that his experience had taught him that raw 
and undisciplined troops must be employed in some way or 
other, or they would soon become vicious and unmanage- 
able. His maxim was, " It is better to dig a ditch every 
morning and fill it up at evening than to have the men 
idle." 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 135 

as would defy the efforts of the British army to dis- 
lodge the soldiers within them. A thousand men 
were placed under his command. It was Friday even- 
ing. Before leaving, that night, to go upon their 
hazardous errand, they gathered on the common in 
the centre of the town of Cambridge, where prayers 
were offered to Heaven on their behalf by the Presi- 
dent of Harvard College.* 

Gen. Putnam undertook the supervision of the ex- 
pedition, although the work to be done was placed di- 
rectly in the hands of Col. Prescott. Whenever, in- 
deed, this memorable battle is spoken of by the people 
of this country, it will have to be admitted that these 
two men, above all others, — Putnam and Prescott, — 
began and carried forward the work which on that 
day was so gloriously done. Putnam had a young 
son, named Daniel, who was in the camp with him as 
a volunteer. He told the boy to go to Mrs. Inman's, 
that night, which was the farm-house where his quar- 
ters were ; f and if it should be necessary to leave on 

* Samuel Langdon. 

t General Putnam's headquarters were in the Borland 
homestead, in Cambridge, opposite the place where Gore 
Hall, of Harvard University, now stands. Most of the Con- 
necticut troops were quartered on the Inman farm. Its 
owner, Ralph Inman, an ardent Tory, was at the time In 
Boston seeking personal safety in the protection of the 
British troops. Mrs. Inman naturally feared that the 
" rebel " Boldiers might give vent to their feelings by the 



136 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the next day, to depart with the rest without wait- 
ing for him. The boy mistrusted that some great 
danger impended over his father, and begged to be 
permitted to go along with him. " You can do noth- 
ing where I am going, my son," said the brave father. 
" There will be plenty who will take care of me." 

It was very soon after dark that Prescott began bis 
march from Cambridge over the narrow neck formed 
by the Charles and Mystic rivers, — a passage-way 
which was only about a hundred and thirty yards 
across. The men moved on in perfect silence, and 
the only lights they had to see by were a few dark 
lanterns, which threw the light backwards, instead 
of forward. Every possible precaution was taken 
against discovery. Bunker Hill stands nearest the 
neck, and is a hundred and ten feet high. Breeds 
Hill is near the southern extremity of Charlestown 
peninsula, and only sixty-two feet in height. The 
distance between these two hills, on their summits, is 
one hundred and thirty rods. 

The troops first came to the foot of Bunker Hill, 
where they found the intrenching tools all ready for 

destruction of the property, and therefore applied to Gen- 
eral Putnam for protection. The General to relieve her 
fears, not only posted guards about the house, but directed 
his young son Daniel to lodge with the family. It was 
thus Daniel, not his father, whose quarters were at the 
Inman farm-house. 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 137 

their use, having been already sent over in wagons. 
Until that moment, in fact, none but the leaders knew 
for what purpose the expedition had been undertaken. 
The order was to fortify Bunker Hill ; but it was very 
apparent that it would be of little use to do that, un- 
less Breed's Hill were fortified also, since the latter 
hill most immediately commanded the town of Bos- 
ton. The leaders consulted what it was best to do. 
Bunker Hill could easily be reached by the guns from 
the enemy's ships near the neck, and at the same 
time it could not effect much damage to them in re- 
turn. It was at length resolved to disobey the strict 
letter of the instructions, and to fortify the height 
which was nearest the city. Col. Gridley undertook 
the engineering part of the labor, which certainly re- 
quired more skill than all the rest. He was obliged 
to hasten their conference several times, telling them 
that the night was fast slipping away, and that every 
moment was of priceless value. 

When they finally reached Breed's Hill, — which 
has, ever since that day, taken the immortal name of 
Bunker Hill, — Col. Gridley laid out his plans, ran 
his quick eye over the ground, and set the men to 
work with their picks and spades with all their en- 
ergy. It was full midnight before a single shovel-full 
of earth was thrown up. As it was summer time, the 
nights were quite short, and by four o'clock in the 



138 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

morning it would be day-break. Hence there were 
but four short hours for the men to do their work. 
But they fell to with wonderful alacrity and vigor, 
stimulated still more by the examples that were set 
them by their leaders. Prescott knew very well how 
to handle a spade, and so did Putnam, who had not 
served for seven years around Lake George against 
the French and Indians, without taking such an in- 
strument in his hands very frequently. !N^ever were 
men known to labor more eagerly than did these men. 
They were working for their very lives, and that they 
knew. They had taken only rations enough with 
them to last for one day, and hence they felt obliged 
to throw up protection against the assaults of the 
enemy in Boston, which would furnish them with 
the surest reliance. 

The redoubt was constructed upon the top of the 
hill, and was eight rods square. Its southern side 
fronted the village of Charlestown, and was most 
strongly fortified, because that quarter was thought 
to be most liable to the enemy's attack. Eastward it 
fronted an open field, which extended down to Mor- 
ton's Point. A breastwork w'as thrown up, as if it 
were a continuation of this eastern side of the re- 
doubt, but still separated from it by a narrow pas- 
sage, which was screened by what was termed a 
" blind " in front. Another passage, or gateway, like- 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 139 

wise opened from the rear wall of the redonbt, con- 
ducting down the hill. 

The officers several times during the night stole 
softly down to the water's edge, to discover if the 
enemy had been alarmed by their operations on the 
hill ; they could hear the cry — " All's well ! " passed 
from one ship to another by the sentries, over the still 
surface of the water. Finding matters going on so 
well, Gen. Putnam hurried back during the night to 
Cambridge, to make the needful preparations for the 
struggle which he too well knew must come on the 
next day. 

Morning dawned slowly, finding the men still en- 
gaged about their work on the hill. It was a still 
day, in the very flush and pride of the new summer. 
The British looked upon the heights, and were filled 
with amazement. In one brief night a work had been 
done, — and done so silently, too, that no soul of them 
all had caught a sound of what was going on, — 
which compelled the British army either to evacuate 
Boston, or to sally out and offer immediate battle. 
They had not given the raw American militia credit 
for so much energy and alacrity. Their own plans 
were by this single act completely frustrated. The 
British officers held a council of war at once, and de- 
termined to send a body of regular troops over to the 
bill with all possible despatch, to dispossess the de- 



140 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

fiant Americans. And while the necessary arrange- 
ments to this end were being carried forward, a brisk 
cannonading was opened and kept up from the ves- 
sels of war, and from Copp's Hill, upon the workers 
on the height. 

Putnam's spirit took fire with the first sound of the 
hostile cannon in the morning. He mounted his 
horse forthwith, and rode over the neck at the top of 
his speed. Prescott was still there in the redoubt, 
working hard himself, and cheering and inspiring the 
men both by his words and by his example. They 
could distinctly see the streets of Boston from the 
height, and descry the British troops forming and 
marching, and making ready for the conflict which 
they now knew was at hand. The American soldiers 
were pretty thoroughly wearied with their severe and 
uninterrupted night's work, and some of the officers 
proposed to send to Cambridge for reinforcements. 
" No," answered Prescott, with promptness ; " they 
have thrown up the works themselves, and it is but 
fair to give them a chance to defend them." Such, 
talk of course infused a new ardor and courage into 
their ranks. A messenger was, however, sent over 
to Cambridge for refreshments. 

As soon as Putnam saw what was certain to come, 
he again posted off to Cambridge, asking Major Gen- 
eral Ward for reinforcements, against the hour of 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 141 

need ; but the latter refused to forward any, not yet 
satisfied that it was not the design of the British to 
land at Lechmere's Point, assail the camp at Cam- 
bridge, and so cut off the body of Americans in 
Charlestown altogether. He had substantial reasons 
for believing this to be their leading design. Hence 
he refused to send Putnam's Connecticut regiment up 
to the hill at all. Putnam therefore had his atten- 
tion divided between Bunker Hill and his own post 
at Inman's Farm, which it was equally necessary for 
him to maintain. 

^ot until he was finally convinced of the intention 
of the enemy to attack Charlestown heights, did he 
concentrate all his energies on what was there going 
forward. He took a handful of men, and tried to 
throw up intrenchments on Bunker Hill, where they 
had paused to decide which hill should be fortified, 
the night before. Could this have been done, they 
could have commanded Breed's Hill, even after the 
latter had been taken by the enemy. But the action 
came on so soon that they were obliged to give over 
their design, and hasten on to the help of their friends 
at the redoubt on Breed's Hill. 

Between twelve and one o'clock, with a burning 
sun high in the heavens, a force of nearly three thou- 
sand of the best men of the British army began to 
land at Morton's Point, in twenty-eight barges, all 



142 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

under command of Gen. Howe. They halted as they 
came to the shore, waiting to rest and refresh them- 
selves, and to be strengthened by the detachments as 
fast as they could be brought over. Their rich uni- 
forms and well-kept arms glittered and flashed in the 
bright sunlight, and created a most imposing appear- 
ance. • It was soon reported in Cambridge that the 
British had begun to land, and the excitement was 
truly intense. The drums beat, the bells were tolled, 
and the soldiers were instantly hurrying in every di- 
rection. It was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon, — 
and Saturday, too, — when the reinforcements all ar- 
rived, making the British army about four thousand 
strong. They were all regular and tried troops, that 
had seen service before ; on the contrary, the Ameri- 
cans were but raw recruits, and looked on with feel- 
ings of doubt as to the result, though with nothing 
like fear. The lattei*, too, were nearly exhausted with 
hunger and thirst ; and what was worse, they began 
to entertain a half suspicion that they had been placed 
in their present position in order to be sacrificed. 

Putnam took the general command outside of the 
redoubt, overseeing the arrangements of the men, and 
taking due advantage of all favorable circumstances. 
Warren, who was President of the Provincial Con- 
gress, heard of the landing of the British, while he 
was in Watertown ; and sick as he was, hurried off to 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 143 

take a part in the battle. Brave old Col. Pomeroy, 
too, the monient he caught the echoes of the cannon- 
ading from the vessels of war, in the forenoon, bor- 
rowed a horse of General Ward and rode down to the 
neck; and seeing the galling fire with which it was 
raked from the vessels, he dismounted and deliber- 
ately walked the whole distance through the whizzing 
balls, unwilling to risk the value of the borrowed 
animal, but caring nothing for his own life. Warren 
went on the hill, and offered himself to Gen. Putnam 
as a common soldier. The General expostulated with 
him, begging him to take himself away again, for his 
services were more needed in another place. But 
Warren w^ould hear nothing to it. l^either would he 
consent to assume anything like command. He went 
into the redoubt where Prescott was, and shouldered 
his musket with tha common soldiers. Prescott of- 
fered to transfer all authority to his hands, but the 
latter would not consent. He went to do simply a 
soldier's duty on that important day. 

The British army began to advance with great reg- 
ularity and order. Previous to this, Gen. Howe had 
ordered his artillery to play against the American 
lines, and, by a signal already agreed upon, caused 
a hot fire to be directed against the redoubt from the 
guns on Copp's Hill and the vessels in the river. The 
American guns — which numbered but two — answered 



144 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

very feebly to those of the enemy ; and Callender was 
withdrawing altogether to the cover of the hill with 
them, because, as he said, his cartridges were too 
large. Putnam rode up to him and ordered him back 
on the ground, threatening otherwise to blow out his 
brains on the spot. He and his men returned, but 
they mingled with the infantry, feeling confident that 
they could not manage their guns to any effective pur- 
pose. 

Howe divided his assaulting force into two parts ; 
the one commanded by himself directed its attack 
against the rail-fence, which was a hastily constructed 
defence, made of new-mown hay stuffed in between 
two parallel fences, and running down from a point 
below the breastworks, and in their rear, to near the 
slough which bordered Mystic river ; — the other wing, 
under Gen. Pigot, was to attack the redoubt. Howe's 
artillery did not serve him much, on account of the 
supply of balls being too large for the pieces, and also 
of the boggy and miry character of the ground. So 
the men were obliged to rely upon the arms they bore 
in their hands. 

Not a word was spoken, apparently, as the splendid 
army of Great Britain slowly toiled up the hill in the 
hot sun. The Americans kept out of sight, and 
waited almost impatiently for the enemy's approach. 
There were now fifteen hundred brave hearts within 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 145 

those entrenchments, eager to engage with the foe. 
Putnam told the men, as he passed hastily along the 
lines, dusty and perspiring, not to waste their fire, for 
powder was very scarce. " Wait," said he, " till you 
see the whites of their eyes, and then take aim at 
their waistbands ! Fire low, — and pick off the com- 
manders, with the handsome coats." Prescott gave 
the same orders to those within the redoubt. So did 
the other officers all along the lines, behind the breast- 
works and the rail-fence. 

The moment the front ranks of the enemy came 
near enough, the word was given to fire. The execu- 
tion was beyond description. ISTot a single shot 
seemed to have been wasted. The British fell ^ovm 
in solid ranks, like grass before the scythe of the 
mower. Another volley followed from behind the in- 
trenchments; and then another; each doing as ter- 
rible work as the first; and instantly the whole body 
of the British were struck with terror, and broke and 
ran like sheep down the hill. Some of the Americans 
were so overjoyed to behold the result, that they 
leaped over the rail fence, and would have pursued 
them down to the water's edge, but they were pru- 
dently held in check by their officers. 

It was not long before Gen. Howe succeeded in ral- 
lying his defeated troops, and bringing them up to 
the attack as before. The Americans made ready for 
10 



146 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM, 

them as rapidly as they could. Putnam had ridden in 
hot haste across to Bunker Hill, and tried in vain to 
bring back the additional troops, — fragments of regi- 
ments, — posted there, so that they might take part in 
the battle. "When the British came up to the attack 
the second time, there were no more Americans in 
the engagement than before. Four hundred men had, 
however, arrived in the meanwhile from Boston, un- 
der command of Major Small,* the old friend of Put- 
nam. Gen. Howe led the way this time, telling his 
men they need not go a foot further than he was 
willing to go himself. This time they played their 
artillery with considerable effect. They were obliged 
to march over the dead bodies of their companions, 
which lay in rows all around them on the hillside. 



♦Major Small's story is as follows: "I glanced my eye 
to the enemy, and saw several young men leveling their 
pieces at me; I knew their excellence as marksmen, and 
I considered myself gone. At that moment, my old friend 
Putnam rushed forward, and striking up the muzzles of 
their pieces with his sword, cried out, ' For God's sake, 
my lads, don't fire at that man! I love him as I do my 
brother.' We were so near each other that I heard his 
words distinctly. He was obeyed; I bowed, thanked him, 
and walked away unmolested." 

Later in the battle, when Warren fell and a soldier was 
in the act of plunging a bayonet into the body of the dying 
patriot, it was Major Small who thrust the weapon aside. 
The scene of this is represented in Trumbull's well known 
painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Thus does one 
act of chivalry inspire another. 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 147 

Just at this moment, too, dense clouds of smoke be- 
gan to roll up from the burning village of Charles- 
town at the foot of the hill, which had been wantonly 
set on fire by hot shot thrown from the British bat- 
tery on Copp's Hill. The expectation on the part of 
the enemy was, that the smoke would roll in between 
them and the Americans, so as to allow them an op- 
portunity to gain their rear unperceived, and like- 
wise to reach the breastworks, which they were then 
resolved to scale. Fortunately, however, a light 
breeze lifted the smoke columns in its airy hands, and 
drifted them in a body out towards the sea. Thus 
the movements of the British were as apparent as 
they were before. The Americans behind their in- 
trenchments waited until they came within the pre- 
scribed distance, and then poured in a volley that did 
even more murderous work than they had done be- 
fore. 

Whole ranks, of officers and men alike, were swept 
down before this resistless fire. Gen. Howe found 
himself at one time standing almost entirely alone. 
The troops were filled with direst confusion. It was 
more than their officers could do, to hold them to- 
gether. The broken ranks could not be closed up 
and made whole with the help of any exertions. No 
threats had the least effect upon the panic-stricken 
regulars. Alarmed, and dispirited, and overwhelmed 



148 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

with double confusion, tbej turned their backs in a 
body and ran off down the hill, beyond the reach of 
the provincial's deadly musketry. Gen. Clinton, the 
British commander, saw the rout that had been 
created by the stubborn provincial militia, and felt 
mortified and chagrined; so much so that he hastily 
threw himself into a boat, and, some five hundred 
more following, crossed over with the reckless resolu- 
tion of serving as a volunteer. A part of the British 
officers protested against marching up the hill again, 
to meet with certain destruction ; but Howe had by 
this time found out where the weakest point in the 
works lay, — between the breastworks and the rail- 
fence, — and determined to make one final effort to 
carry it. It is also related that some careless soldier 
within the redoubt was overheard to say something 
about the scarcity of the ammunition ; and this fact, 
when reported to the officers, gave a little more en- 
couragement to the enemy. 

Gen. Howe, therefore, led the third attack against 
the American left, especially against the point on 
the slope between the breastworks and the rail-fence. 
Gen. Pigot, aided by Gen. Clinton, marched up to 
attack the redoubt, aiming also to turn the American 
right. The orders to the British soldiers were to take 
the fire of the Americans, and then to charge bayonets 
and scale the works. This is what they should have 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 149 

done in the first place; and what they would have 
done, had they known how short the Americans were 
for ammunition. 

While the British were getting ready to come up 
to the third assault, the Americans had time to re- 
fresh themselves, and in some degree to recover from 
the protracted fatigaie of the night and day. They 
also began to hope, from the long interval that elapsed 
between the second and third attacks, that the enemy 
were finally defeated, and would not venture to come 
up again. Well might they have hoped it was so, for 
they knew too well how low their ammunition had 
begim to run ; and as for their muskets, there were 
very few bayonets to them all. Therefore, in this 
brief interval, they cast about to know what they 
should do if the emergency really came. Some pre- 
pared to club their muskets, after having first dis- 
charged them at the enemy. Some collected stones 
and other missiles, to hurl at them in the last neces- 
sity. They thought of everything, in fact, but fear. 

Meantime Major General Ward sent over three 
regiments to the field, hoping to help the troops to 
hold the hill. One detachment of about three hun- 
dred did pass over the neck ; but the fire from the ves- 
sels' guns that swept the entire passage was so severe, 
that the men hesitated when they reached the spot 
and saw the almost entire hopelessness of making the 



150 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

attempt. Putnam first ordered these three hundred 
to fall to work intrenching Bunker Hill, but after- 
wards ordered them forward to the lines. He was 
working like a hero all the while, riding to and fro 
at the top of his speed, to get the scattered forces 
on Bunker Hill into martial order, and to lead them 
on to the defence of Breed's Hill. He also rode down 
to the neck, and shouted to the recruits on the other 
side to come over, and lend the aid of their bayonets. 
He then dashed across the exposed passage, through 
the rain of the balls from the enemy's cannon, in 
order to show them that they had nothing to fear.* 
But it was to no purpose. 

On came the British, at length, for the third time. 
The Americans stxDod firm and resolute in their lines, 
prepared to receive them. The British artillery soon 
turned the breastworks, however, sweeping the whole 
line of their interior. The Americans were of course 
thus driven within the redoubt, the breastwork being 
abandoned. But they had taken sure aim before they 

* Putnam that day rode several times back and forth 
between Charlestown and Cambridge. A private soldier 
afterward described him as being " without a coat, in his 
shirt-sleeves, and having an old white felt hat on." His 
absolutely reckless exposure to the fire of the enemy, and 
his escape from all harm, had no little effect upon his 
soldiers. They were, says Swett, perfectly convinced that 
he was invulnerable, — but not equally conscious of being 
po themselves. They thus declined to share with him the 
danger. 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 151 

left, and brought down many a proud Britisli officer. 
General Howe himself was wounded in the foot. 
There was but one round a-piece to the provincials 
now, and when they had expended their first fire they 
knew they must make a hand-to-hand fight of it. 
Hence they fired with just as great precision as be- 
fore, every shot bringing down its man. 

Then it was that they were put to their true met- 
tle. From that moment it was every man for him- 
self. The British came jumping over the walls of 
earth, with fixed bayonets. They were received with 
showers of stones in their faces, with muskets used 
like clubs over their heads, and with resistance in 
every possible style. The fight was man against man. 
Every inch of ground was stoutly contested. The re- 
doubt was already fast filling up with the enemy, and 
the Americans saw that nothing was left them but to 
retreat. Major Pitcairn,* — the same who opened the 

* " Although Putnam was not present at the battle of Lex- 
ington, the pistols which he canned in the American Revo- 
lution were a trophy of that eventful day. They were none 
other than those of Major Pitcairn who had discharged 
one of them when he gave his soldiers the order to fire 
on the minutemen who were drawn up on Lexington Green. 
Later in the day, when the British were retreating. Pit- 
cairn's horse was shot under him, and in the haste of dis- 
mounting, in order to escape his pursuers, the British offi- 
cer left his weapons behind him. They were captured by 
the Americans, and, a few weeks later, were offered as a 
gift to Washington, but he declined them. They were 



152 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

revolution on Lexington Green in April, — was one of 
the first to mount the walls of the redoubt, and he was 
instantly shot by a negro soldier, while shouting to 
his reinforcement of marines behind him, — " Now 
for the glory of the marines ! " Prescott ordered a re- 
treat, feeling certain that they could maintain their 
position no longer. This was carried out in perfect 
order, the men keeping their faces to the foe, and re- 
sisting stoutly for every foot they were obliged to 
yield. Prescott and Warren were the last to leave 
the redoubt. The butts of the American muskets 
cracked loud over the heads of the British soldiers, 
and were in many cases shivered into fragments. 
There was a glistening of steel in the sun, and a 
clash and ring of bayonets and musketry. There 
were shoutings and curses, and an indescribable con- 
fusion of sounds and voices. The faces of many of 
the militia were smutted and blackened with powder, 
so that they were scarcely known to their companions 
and friends. Col. Gridley, who planned the works, 
was wounded and carried off the hill. Prescott re- 
ceived several bayonet thrusts, but fortunately was 

then presented to Putnam and were his constant compan- 
ions during the rest of his military career. These silver- 
mounted and handsomely engraved pistols are now kept 
in the Gary library at Lexington, having been given to the 
town by the widow of John P. Putnam, of Cambridge. N. Y." 
— Livingston. 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 153 

not wounded. Warren retreated even after the latter 
did, and was shot through the head by a musket ball, 
dropping dead in his tracks. There he lay until he 
was recognized the next morning by Dr. Jeffries, a 
British surgeon, and an intimate friend ; when he was 
taken up and buried on the spot where he fell. He 
was mourned by the whole army and province. Gen. 
Putnam felt his loss as keenly as any one could; he 
compared his fate with that which a few years before 
overtook young Lord Howe at his side, while march- 
ing against the French at Ticonderoga. 

Parts of regiments at this juncture came pouring 
down from Bunker Hill, and did effective service in 
covering the American retreat. At the rail-fence, 
which was manned by Putnam's Connecticut troops, 
with others, a successful effort was made for a short 
time to prevent the British from turning their flank, 
and so the latter were kept in check until the main 
body could safely make their way out of the redoubt ; 
but for this resolute stand, the retreating militia must 
have been cut off entirely. But as soon as they saw 
that the rest of their comrades had taken to flight, 
they left their position with all possible despatch. 
Putnam tried every method to induce them to stand 
firm, flying into a towering passion, and using lan- 
guage that was for a long time afterwards remem- 
bered for its profanity. The old man could not bear 



154 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the thought of their deserting their ground, and it is 
said that he was not wholly aware at the time how 
low they had run for powder. " Make a stand here! " 
he shouted. "We can stop them yet! In God's 
name, fire ! and give them one shot more ! " Pome- 
roy, too, with his shattered musket in his hand, tried 
to rally them for one more effort; but it was in vain. 
Putnam covered their retreat in person, and was 
not more than twelve rods distant from the enemy, 
and fully exposed to their fire. He came to one of the 
field-pieces that had been deserted, which he roundly 
swore should not be given up to the enemy. Only 
one man could be found to remain there with him; 
and he was in another moment shot down at his side, 
and the rapid advance of the British with fixed bay- 
onets drove him from the cannon also. Colonel 
Trumbull, the painter of the Revolution, has repre- 
sented Putnam, in his great battle piece at the na- 
tional Capital, in the act of defending this field- 
piece and covering the retreating militia. The 
painter has attired him in a splendid blue and scarlet 
uniform ; whereas his dress on that day was strikingly 
different from that, and more truly befitted the char- 
acter of the man and the nature of the work he was 
engaged in. An old soldier, who was in the fight of 
that day, has told us exactly how the General was 
clad, and how he looked. He says that he rode about 



BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL. 155 

tHe hill, and across the neck between Charlestown 
and Cambridge, in order to report to Gen. Ward, — 
" without any coat, in his shirt-sleeves, and with an 
old felt hat on his head." This was certainly more a 
dress for useful, than for ornamental purposes, and 
would not be likely to encumber or embarrass any one 
who had hard and hasty work to do. 

The Americans retreated in good order down the 
hill and across the neck, compelled, however, to run 
the gauntlet of the galling fire from the British ves- 
sels. Many of them were killed, as was to be ex- 
pected. They next took up their position on Pros- 
pect and Winter Hills, about a mile distant, which 
they proceeded at once to fortify. Here they lay all 
night. The British occupied the ground they had so 
dearly gained, and remained there in quiet until 
morning. Had they pursued their advantage, and 
pushed on upon Cambridge, it would have proved a 
great day's work for them, after all. Many wondered 
at the time why they did not. But when the report 
of their losses on that day came to be given, there 
would seem to have been the best reason in the world 
for the neglect. Out of between four and five thou- 
sand troops that were sent over from Boston, their 
loss in killed and wounded amounted to fifteen hun- 
dred. It was too terrible a slaughter for them to re- 
cover from, in so short a time. Clinton, however, waa 



156 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

for pushing on ; Howe was more timid, and advised 
tliat the troops remain and rest where they were.* 

This day's work was proof enough that the Ajiieri- 
cans could boldly resist oppression and tyranny. 

* Of the place and influence of General Ritnam in the 
battle of Bunker Hill, Livingston writes: " Putnam's activ- 
ity at the rail fence and near the redoubt in encouraging 
the men and commanding them not to waste their powder, 
but to wait before firing until they saw the white of the 
enemy's eyes, the authority which he exercised in with- 
drawing men with intrenching tools from Prescott to throw 
up earthworks on the second eminence, his repeated trips 
across Charlestown Neck to obtain reinforcements, his at- 
tempts to rally the men during the retreat, and his orders 
after his troops came to a halt on Prospect and Winter 
Hills, are all evidences that he was the foremost leader in 
different parts of the field." 

Washington Irving writes: " Putnam also was a leading 
spirit throughout the affair; one of the first to prompt and 
one of the last to maintain it. He appears to have been 
active and efficient at every point; sometimes fortifying; 
sometimes hurrying up reinforcements; inspiriting men 
by his presence while they were able to maintain their 
ground, and fighting gallantly at the outpost to cover their 
retreat. The brave old man, riding about in the heat of 
action, on this sultry day, ' with a hanger belted across his 
brawny shoulders, over a waistcoat without sleeves,' has 
been sneered at by a contemporary as ' much fitter to head 
a band of sickle men or ditchers than muskeeters.' But 
this very description illustrates his character, and identi- 
fies him with the times and the service. A yeoman fresh 
from the plow, in the garb of rural labor; a patriot brave 
and generous, but rough and ready, who thought not of 
himself in time of danger, but was ready to serve in any 
way, and to sacrifice oflBcial rank and self-glorification to 
the good of the cause." 



Battle of bunker hill. 157 

They had seen the fire and smoke, and heard the yells 
and groans of battle. On that Saturday afternoon, 
in an engagement which lasted about two hours in all, 
they lost, counting the killed, wounded, and missing, 
four hundred and fifty men. This was in no sense a 
victory on the part of the British. They gained the 
field, because the ammunition of the Americans gave 
out too soon; but they certainly lost the battle. Be- 
sides this, they learned a lesson which they refused 
to read before, that the people of America would fight 
to the last drop of blood for their rights, their soil, 
and their firesides.* 

* The moral or political effect of the battle of Bunker 
Hill was very great. It roused the excitement of the col- 
onies as no other event could have done. Blood had been 
shed. Dr. Warren had fallen among the rest, the provincial 
militia had shown fighting qualities quite equal to those 
of the flower of the British regulars. The battle left the 
Americans more determined and hopeful than ever before. 
The British held the ground, but they lost more than they 
gained, and thus the phrase, " a Bunker Hill victory," has 
passed into proverbial speech. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 



Theee was no retreat for the Colonists after the 
battle of Bunker Hill. The Rubicon had been 
crossed. They had taken the sword, and made their 
appeal to the God of battles ; and by the sword, under 
the directing care of a kind Providence, must they 
only hope to stand or fall. 

There was no formal compact, or union, as yet, be- 
tween the several Colonics ; yet they were even then 
conferring together, through their delegates in Phila- 
delphia, as to the best method of making effective re- 
sistance to the tyrannical demands of England. This 
Congress possessed no particular power to pass any 
acts which should bind the Colonies, but was con- 
vened more for the purpose of conferring upon the 
wisest plans for them to adopt. Massachusetts had 
proposed a federal union, and likewise offered to sub- 
scribe to any plan of the kind which should be 
brought forward and established. The delegates 
from the other New England Colonies agreed to the 
same thing. 

158 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 159 

Congress therefore acted with promptness, as it 
should have done, if at all. It proceeded at once to 
organize and officer a regular army, and placed Wash- 
ington at its head. There were four Major Generals 
appointed under him, — Lee, Ward, Schuyler, and 
Putnam. General Washington came on to Cam- 
bridge, and assumed his high office on the 2nd day 
of July. He also gave Putnam the commission which 
he brought on from Congress, without any delay. 
From others he withheld their commissions for a 
time. Some of the Brigadier Generals felt aggrieved 
that they had been superseded by men who ranked 
lower in the armies of the separate colonies, and left 
the army in consequence. Jealousies and heart-burn- 
ings like these called for the exercise of the highest 
degree of patience and tact on the part of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief; and it was fortunate for our liber- 
ties that the country at that time had a man like 
George Washington to place in supreme command. 
It is sufficient to add that these officers returned to 
the army again, consenting to overlook what had at 
first given them such deep dissatisfaction. 

The British immediately began to fortify Charles- 
town, and carried out the plans of Putnam himself 
upon Bunker Hill. They likewise strengthened their 
defences in Boston to the fullest capacity. Washing- 
ton, upon taking command, formed the army into 



160 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

three divisions: Major-General Lee commanded the 
left wing, reaching to the Mystic river, — Major- 
General Ward commanded the right wing, stationed 
at Dorchester and Roxbury, — and Major-General 
Putnam commanded the advance of the centre, while 
the Commander-in-Chief himself made his head quar- 
ters at Cambridge. Putnam saw Washington for 
the first time in his life, when he arrived at Cam- 
bridge, and the acquaintance thus formed ripened 
into a friendship and intimacy, which lasted through 
the whole of Putnam's remaining days. 

It is reported that a flag of truce arrived at the 
American lines, about this time, which had come 
from Major Small, the old friend of Putnam. Small 
wished to see Putnam on urgent business. The latter 
consulted with Washington as to the expediency of 
meeting him as requested. Washington advised the 
step, and Putnam accordingly went over. Major 
Small only wished to make a proposal to his former 
companion in arms, on behalf of the British com- 
mander. It was that Putnam should desert the Con- 
tinental Army, throw his influence on the side of the 
King, and receive therefor — as offered to him once 
before, — high rank, a liberal compensation in money, 
?.nd bountiful provision for his sons. Putnam treated 
the proposal as he had treated it once before, — with 
indignation and scorn. The story goes, that Putnam 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 161 

confided the proposal to no one but Washington, and 
that it remained a secret for several years. 

The Americans exerted themselves without cessa- 
tion to hedge the British in ; and for this purj)ose 
they erected defences and fortifications at every point, 
in a wide circuit of a dozen miles around Boston, — 
from Dorchester Heights to Charlestown, — where 
the enemy would be likely to make an attempt to pass 
through. Thus they were completely blockaded, ex- 
cept to the seaward. Winter Hill, Prospect Hill, and 
Ploughed Hill were fortified, to prevent them from 
making their way up the Mystic River. Putnam 
exerted himself greatly to fortify the latter hill, since 
it most immediately checked any advantage they 
might attempt to take from their position on Bunker 
Hill. He never refused to work with his own hands, 
entering into the labor required with all his native 
impetuosity and ardor. 

Congress put forth a solemn Declaration of War, 
on the 6th of July. It was, at the time, quite doubt- 
ful how it would be received by the army which 
Washington was so actively engaged in organizing; 
and it was feared, if they should refuse to adopt it 
as an expression of their own sentiments, that they 
would break up and return in time to their homes. 
They had enlisted for no definite period, but had 
come forward as volunteers to repel the assaults of 
11 



162 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the British on Boston. The Declaration was read at 
head-quarters, at Cambridge, by the President of 
Harvard College, on the 15th of July. On the 18th, 
it was read to the division under command of Gen- 
eral Putnam, on Prospect Hill; after which the sol- 
diers shouted " Amen " three times, a cannon was 
fired, cheers were given by the troops, and the flag 
of Connecticut was thrown to the breeze, bearing on 
one side the motto, " An Appeal to Heaven/^ and on 
the other " Qui transtulit, sustinet." * The Essex 
Gazette, in narrating the event, said, — " The Philis- 
tines on Bunker Hill heard the shouts of the Israel- 
ites, and, being very fearful, paraded themselves in 
battle array." For some time after, frequent skir- 
mishes occurred between the two hostile armies, 
which tended to make the raw American soldiers 
alert and mindful of discipline. 

A description of the American camp in those days, 
from the pen of an army chaplain, is very interesting 
at this time : — " The generals are upon the lines every 
day. l!^ew orders from his excellency are read to the 
respective regiments, every morning after prayers. 
The strictest government is taking place, and great 
distinction is made between officers and soldiers. 
Every one is made to know his place, and keep in it. 

• "He who transplanted, sustains." This is the motto of 
Connecticut. 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 163 

or to be tied up and receive thirty or forty lashes, ac- 
cording to Ms crime. Thousands are at work every 
day, from four till eleven o'clock in the morning. It 
is surprising how much work has been done. * * * * 
Who would have thought, twelve months past, that all 
Cambridge and Charlestown would be covered over 
with American camps, and cut up into forts, and in- 
trenchments, and all the lands, fields and orchards 
laid common ; horses and cattle feeding in the choic- 
est mowing land, whole fields of corn eaten down to 
the ground, and large parks of well regulated locusts 
cut down for fire-wood and other public uses ? This, 
I must say, looks a little melancholy. My quarters 
are at the foot of the famous Prospect Hill, where 
such preparations are made for the reception of the 
enemy. It is very diverting to walk among the 
camps. They are as different in their forms as the 
owners are in their dress, and every tent is a por- 
traiture of the temper and taste of the persons who 
encamp in it. Some are made of boards, and some of 
sail-cloth ; some partly of one and partly of the other. 
Again others are made of stone or turf, brick or brush. 
Some are thrown up in a hurry ; others are curiously 
wrought with doors and windows, done with wreaths 
and withes, in the manner of a basket. Some are 
your proper tents or marquees, looking like the regu- 
lar camp of the enemy. In these are the Rhode Is- 



164 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

landers, who are furnished with tent equipage and 
everything in the most exact English style. How- 
ever, I think this great variety rather a beauty than 
a blemish in the army." 

Washington felt the want of powder in his army, 
during this summer and autumn, more than any- 
thing else. He found, to his surprise, that at one 
time he had but thirty-two barrels for the entire 
army. Privateersmen were fitted out to attack the 
enemy's vessels that were hovering on the coast, and 
one of the latter was finally captured by Capt. Manly, 
with a large supply of cannon and ammunition. 
There were no powder mills in the colonies then. 
Washington was very much afraid, too, lest the Brit- 
ish commander should find out his condition in this 
particular. Vessels were fitted out from various ports 
for the West Indies, to bring back supplies of powder 
alone. ISTew England rum was sent to the coast of 
Africa, where it was exchanged for the much needed 
commodity. 

The British numbered about thirteen thousand 
men, while the Americans hemming them in counted 
nearly fifteen thousand. In jSTovember, Gen. Put- 
nam threw up other fortifications on Cobble Hill, 
which was somewhat nearer to the enemy in Boston 
than Ploughed Hill, which had already been occu- 
pied. This intrenchment went by the name of " Put- 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 165 

nam's impregnable fortress," while tlie one at Pros- 
pect Hill, which was his head quarters, was called 
" our main fortress." The former was briskly fired 
upon by the British cannon, both from Bunker Hill 
and from their vessels, while the men were engaged in 
throwing it up; but no damage resulted. As soon, 
however, as the fortifications were completed, the 
guns that were mounted within them opened on the 
gun-boats and batteries of the enemy on Charles 
river, and effectually drove them from their trouble- 
some position. General Gage was becoming uneasy, 
thus shut in by the American army. His men lay 
idle ; vice was fast increasing in the ranks ; intoxica- 
tion was becoming quite common ; and the entire body 
of the troops showed signs of a rapid demoralization. 
He saw his mistake in remaining where he was. He 
dared not march out into the surrounding country, 
and strike a blow ; for it might be that he had not the 
present strength. There was also much rising disaf- 
fection both among his officers and soldiers. The 
Americans printed handbills, and circulated them 
secretly within the British lines; and these trifling 
things were a prolific cause of permanent michief. 
There is a handbill now in possession of the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society, which was printed in 
London, and circulated among the soldiers who were 
about to embark as reinforcements for America. On 



166 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

one side is the phrase, '' Before God and man they 
are right." On the back of the same, and evidently 
printed after its arrival in this country, were two 
statements, as follows, the reader remembering that 
at Prospect Hill were Putnam's head quarters, and 
at Bunker Hill those of Gen. Howe : — 

PKOSPECT HILL. 

I. Seven dollars a month. 

II. Fresh provisions, and in plenty. 

III. Health. 

IV. Freedom, ease, affluence, and a good farm. 

BUNKER HILL. 

I. Three pence a day. 

II. Rotten salt pork. 

III. The scurvy. 

IV. Slavery, beggary and want. 

General Gage wrote home to Lord Dartmouth, in 
the month of June, — " The trials we have had, show 
that the rebels are not the despicable rabble too many 
have supposed them to be." In July he wrote again, 
in speaking of the rebellion, — " This province began 
it, — I might say this town ; for here the arch rebels 
formed their scheme long ago." Provisions at length 
began to grow very scarce. Gage sent out parties to 
obtain plunder of this sort, but they always returned 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 167 

•unsuccessful. Finally, in order to thin out the popu- 
lation, it was determined to dismiss all the inhabi- 
tants of Boston who were willing to go; it being 
estimated that there were between six and seven thou- 
sand in the town, whose absence would make quite a 
difference in the amount of supplies required. Those 
who wished to leave were told to send in their names ; 
but as they were expressly forbidden to carry any of 
their plate away, or money to the amount of more 
than five pounds — or twenty-five dollars, — to each 
person, not more than two thousand names were given 
in. People of property would not go, to leave their 
wealth behind them, to be seized and divided among 
a foreign soldiery. But in the number of those who 
did leave, many of the women quilted their silver 
spoons and coin into their under-garments, and so car- 
ried off much of their valuables in safety. 

Congress began to grow impatient that Washing- 
ton had not yet risked a pitched battle, and winter 
now fast coming on. They found fault, some of 
them, with his inefficiency. He was placed, how- 
ever, in most trying circumstances. He was very 
short for the necessary supplies of war, while the sol- 
diers began to consider the time close at hand — in 
September — when the term for which they had en- 
listed had expired. He was himself, therefore, in 
favor of bringing on an action between the armies as 



1G8 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

soon as it could be done advantageously; but the of- 
ficers about the council board thought otherwise. He 
drew up a letter to Congress, describing his situation ; 
and a more melancholy picture than he sketched, it 
is not easy to imagine. He laid the whole blame upon 
the shoulders of Congress, and charged it upon them 
that the paymaster " had not a single dollar in hand," 
and the commissary general could not strain his credit 
any farther. He told them whose fault he thought 
it was, that a majority of the troops were " in a state 
not far from mutiny, upon a deduction from their 
stated allowance." Winter was approaching, and 
what, he asked, was to be done ? All this, only three 
months after he had taken the command. 

Gage was called home in October, and General 
Howe was appointed to the command of the British 
in his place. The latter general, however, was as un- 
willing to attack the Americans as Gage had ever 
been. He had tried their mettle for himself, in the 
battle on Breed's Hill. So he strengthened his po- 
sition in the town as much as he could, and prepared 
to pass the winter comfortably where he was. He for- 
tified Bunker Hill more strongly still, and added to 
the defences on Boston ISTeck. He pulled down many 
buildings in the city, and erected military works in 
their place. He tore out the pews of the " old South 
Church," and converted the building into a riding 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 169 

school for his cavalry. A British gentleman wrote 
from Boston in October, " we are now erecting re- 
doubts on the eminences on Boston Common; and a 
meeting-house, where sedition has been often 
preached, is clearing out to be made a riding-school 
for the light dragoons." Another writer says, " in 
clearing everything away, a beautiful carved pew, 
with silk furniture, formerly belonging to a deceased 
gentleman in high estimation, was taken down and 
carried to Mr. John Armory's house, by the order of 
an officer, who applied the carved work to the erection 
of a hog-stye." 

A committee * came on from Congress late in the 
autumn, to confer with Gen. Washington and lay 
down some definite plan of future operations. Dr. 
Franklin was of the number. Many of the soldiers 
left pretty soon after, their terms of enlistment hav- 
ing expired ; but an appeal to the people of ISTew Eng- 
land, which was soon made, called forth a warm and 
most cheering response. Ten thousand men placed 
themselves in readiness to march at a moment's warn- 
ing. And pretty soon after, the wives of the officers 
joined them in the camp, which brought around 
lively times for the Christmas holidays, f The wife 

* This committee was composed of Dr. Benjamin Frank- 
lin of Pennsylvania, Colonel Benjamin Harrison of Vir- 
ginia, and the Hon. Thomas Lynch of South Carolina. 

•j- Mrs. Putnam occupied the Inman house, from whence 



170 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

of Gen. Washington came on from Mount Vernon, 
not considering herself, just then, safe in Virginia. 

In January of the next year, 1776, the British 
made preparations to send a fleet around to iSTew 
York. Washington heard of it, and ordered Gen. 
Lee across the country to that city, with authority to 
collect such an army as he could along his route, and 
then make the best defences for the city he was able. 
Connecticut especially helped him to a large force. 
He at once proceeded, therefore, to fortify the city, 
the heights on Long Island, and the Highland passes 
on the Hudson. Washington resolved at length to 
force the enemy to an engagement, in spite of the 
advice of a council of war to the contrary. He there- 
fore made ready to occupy a strong position on Dor- 
chester Heights, where he could command the town 
and the harbor. These heights are now within what 
is called South Boston. 

On the night of the 2d of March, he opened his 

she dispensed gracious hospitality. She made use of the 
equipages which she found in the stable of the Inman 
farm. On one occasion the punctilious authorities of Cam- 
bridge, denying her right to use the Inman coach, com- 
pelled her to alight and walk home. This affront stirred 
up the General to a degree of indignation that was ex- 
pressed in language vigorously regardless of rules of ele- 
gant usage; and this drew from the meddlesome officials 
a suitable letter of apology, in which they express the 
" highest gratitude " for the " extraordinary services " he 
bad rendered to the town of Cambridge. 



SIEGE OF BOSTON. 171 

fires from an opposite direction upon the city. These 
he kept up for the two nights following. The object 
of this was, to deceive the British as to his real in- 
tentions; so that when they looked up at the Heights 
on the morning of the 5th of March, they saw the 
morning of the 17th of June previous acted all over 
again. They were struck with terror. They saw 
that the Americans now had it in their power to do 
with them almost what they chose. They had but one 
course to pursue, and that was to retreat. The British 
commander planned an expedition against the forti- 
fied Americans, under the command of Lord Percy, 
but it amounted to nothing. A storm succeeded in 
scattering the boats in which the troops had em- 
barked, which Washington himself very deeply re- 
gretted; for had it occurred otherwise, he was sure 
that the entire British army would have fallen into 
his hands. His own plan was to send a division into 
the city from another quarter, the moment the force 
under Lord Percy should leave it to attack Dorches- 
ter Heights; and Gen. Putnam was to have led on 
this assault, with four thousand men. The story goes, 
that while this plan of Washington's was under dis- 
cussion in the council of officers, Putnam could not sit 
easy in his chair, but keiit going continually to the 
door and windows to look out. Washington urged 
him to be quiet, — to sit dovm and give his advice aa 



172 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

certain questions came up to be decided. " Oh," said 
Putnam, " you may plan the battle to suit yourself, 
General, and I will fight it ! " ^^ether true or not, 
it is characteristic enough to be quite probable. 

!N"ook's Hill — which was still nearer to the British 
— was fortified on the night of the 16th of March, 
and then they knew they might as well be going. Ac- 
cordingly they made all possible haste to embark. 
They began to move at sunrise, and by the middle of 
the forenoon were on board their vessels, and on their 
way out to sea. This was glorious news indeed. Bos- 
ton was at once ordered to be occupied by two de- 
tachments of troops, under command of Gen. Put- 
nam. He took possession of all the fortifications 
which were thus hastily deserted, amid general con- 
gratulations and rejoicings. It is related that the 
British left wooden sentries on Bunker Hill, with 
muskets fixed upon their shoulders ; but they inspired 
the Americans with no great amount of fear, and did 
not so much as serve to draw the charge from a 
single musket. 



CHAPTEE IX. 



OPEKATIO^rS IN NEW YORK. 



The British fleet, with all the troops on board, 
sailed immediately to Halifax. Gen. Howe expected 
at that point to be reinforced from England, before 
proceeding to make any further demonstrations 
against the Colonists. But he soon found his quarters 
there too close to be altogether comfortable, and af- 
terwards left for ISTew York, reaching Staten Island 
in the latter part of June. 

Major General Lee, having had time merely to 
plan his defences in and around ISTew York, was 
ordered in haste to take command of the Southern 
army, and posted off to South Carolina for that pur- 
pose. Putnam was sent to New York in his place, 
and assumed command there forthwith, receiving his 
orders from Gen. Washington on the 29th of March, 
or only twelve days after the British left Boston. 
His special duty was to complete the defences that 
had been designed by Gen. Lee, and to put the army 
under his immediate command in as good a state of 

173 



174 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

discipline as he could. His head-quarters in "New 
York were opposite Bowling Green.* His family 
were with him there, and in his military family were, 
with others, Major Aaron Burr,f his own son, and 
Major — afterwards Colonel — Humphreys, who wrote 
the first biography of the old soldier that was ever 
read. 

Gen. Putnam had hard work to quell the feeling 
of disaffection which he found to be so common 
around him.:}: Oftentimes plots were set on foot by 

♦ Putnam was quartered in the Kennedy house which 
Blood at No. 1, Broadway, on the spot where the Washing- 
ton Building now stands. 

t When Putnam's aide-de-camp, Webb, was transferred to 
a similar position under Washington, he was succeeded by 
Major Aaron Burr, who was at that time twenty years of 
age. Putnam grew very fond of Burr, but the latter con- 
tracted such feelings of hatred against Washington that 
he would have left ttie service but for the intervention of 
John Hancock, president of Congress. 

% New York was an aristocratic town, and the influence 
of the Tories was there dominant. The conflicts between 
the two parties were frequent and often bitter. The pres- 
ence of the patriot army emboldened the whigs to per- 
petrate upon their rivals acts of horse play that astonished 
the friends of their victims. One instance is recorded in 
the diary of the pastor of the Moravian Church. " Here 
in town very unhappy and shocking scenes were exhibited. 
On Monday night some men called Tories were carried and 
hauled down through the streets, with candles forced to 
be held by them, or pushed in their faces, and their heads 
burned; but on Wednesday, in the open day, the scene 
was by far worse; several, and among them gentlemen, 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 175 

Americans who favored the British cause, to over- 
throw which required all his vigilance and industry. 
There were plenty of loyalists on Long Island, and in 
!N^ew Jersey, who were not at all backward in aiding 
the desigTis of the enemy, by performing the service 
of spies upon the doings of the Americans, At one 
time they had matured a plan to suddenly seize the 
person of Gen. Putnam, and deliver him over to the 
British. Putnam declared martial law, which of 
course subjected the city to strict military rule, such 
as prevails in a camp. ISTo inhabitant was allowed to 
pass any sentry at night, who could not give the 
countersign. The people, likewise, not yet having 
had any open rupture in that quarter with the Brit- 
ish, were in the habit of trading with their vessels in 
certain commodities that were wanted by them, which 
of course produced a strikingly bad effect; this 
traffic General Putnam forthwith stopped; he would 
not tolerate, any commerce or communication between 
the fleet and the shore. Those who were taken in the 
act of going to and fro were treated as open enemies. 
He appointed an Inspector for the port, whose duty 
it was, among other things, to give permits to the 
oystermen. 

were carried on rails; some stripped naked and dreadfully 
abused. Some of the generals, and especially Putnam, and 
their forces had enough to quell the riot, and make the 
piob disperse." 



176 LIFE OP GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

He sent a body of a thousand men over to fortify 
Governor's Island, and also threw up defences at Red 
Hook, and along the Jersey shore. The great ob- 
ject then was, to prevent the British from landing; 
having no navy, it was useless for the Americans to 
think of giving any trouble to the enemy's fleet where 
it was. Finding that the expected reinforcements 
were but slow in coming forward, the British general 
again put to sea, hoping perhaps to fall in with them. 
Putnam, however, still kept at work according to the 
original plan, and performed a vast deal of labor, 
little of which at this time makes any show on record, 
in rendering the city safe against the assaults of ene- 
mies either without or within. A British ship, about 
this time, sent a boat on shore for refreshments, con- 
taining a midshipman and twelve sailors. Putnam 
ordered an attack on all such visitors, agreeably to 
which order two of this boat's crew were killed and 
the rest taken prisoners. 

Washington left Boston, and reached New York 
about the middle of April. He very well knew that 
the next effort of the British would be to strike a suc- 
cessful blow here, for, with a base line for operations 
like ISTew York, they could penetrate northward to 
Canada, eastward into New England, or westward 
into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Hence his exer- 
tions were all put forth to prevent the city's falling 



OPERATIONS m NEW YORK. 17Y 

into their hands. Governor's Island had been forti- 
fied by Gen. Putnam already; which effectually 
checked the entrance of the ships from the Narrows. 
Hulks were now sunk in the channels of East River 
and the Hudson, to prevent their vessels coming up. 
The great need about the fortifications was heavy 
cannon. Could the Americans have been properly 
supplied with these, the city would never have fallen 
into the hands of the British as easily as it afterwards 
did. While affairs remained in this posture, Wash- 
ington went on to Philadelphia, to exchange views 
with Congress, which was still in session there; and 
during his absence Putnam again resmned the chief 
command. He was much occupied, in the absence of 
the Commander-in-Chief, in putting down the secret 
schemes and plots of the Tories, many of whom were 
to be found in the lower counties near the city, on- 
Long Island, and along the Connecticut shore. Sev- 
eral of this class were arrested, and one was finally 
tried and executed, as an example.* 

* What is known as the " Hickey plot " takes its name 
from Thomas Hickey, a member of Washington's Guard. 
He was bribed by the Tories to organize the conspiracy, 
the purpose of which has been described as follows: " Every 
General Officer and every other who was active in serving 
his country in the field was to have been assassinated; 
our cannon were to be spiked up; and in short the ac- 
cursed scheme was laid to give us into the hands of the 
enemy and to ruin us." The plot was discovered and its 

12 



178 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

It being continually expected that the enemy would 
soon arrive with a larger fleet and army, every exer- 
tion was made to be ready to give them a fitting re- 
ception. Congress recommended the building of firo- 
boats, or rafts, to oppose the ships in their entrance 
from the ISTarrows; and to this subject Gen. Putnam 
gave his immediate and earnest attention. The ex- 
pectation of the daily arrival of a large British fleet 
was not a vain one ; for Howe's brother — Lord Howe, 
or Admiral Howe, as he was called, — soon made his 
appearance off ISTew York, with reinforcements that 
at once gave the conflict a much more serious charac- 
ter than it had even assumed before. This arrival oc- 
curred about the middle of July. Just previous to 
this event, however, the immortal Declaration of In- 
dependence had been passed by the Continental Con- 
gress in Philadelphia, declaring the Colonies of 
North America no longer Colonies of Great Britain, 
but free and independent States. This was a step 
forward, and, for those times, quite a long one. It 
was extremely doubtful how this act on the part of 
Congress would be received by the army, and much 
anxiety was for a time felt concerning it. John Han- 
cock, the President of the American Congress, sent 

leader promptly hanged. Very soon after this, the large 
British fleet, numbering forty-five vessels arrived in New 
York Bay. 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 1Y9 

a copy of it to Gen. Washington, who immediately 
caused it to be read at the head of the army, at six 
o'clock in the evening, accompanying his order with 
the recommendations of a true and large-souled 
patriot. 

Together with the force under Admiral Howe, 
and that of Gen. Clinton, who had also returned at 
about the same time from the south, Gen. Howe was 
placed at the head of an army of nearly twenty-five 
thousand men, the very flower of the European arm- 
ies. Many of these were troops that had been hired 
for the war by England, who were called mercenaries. 
The Hessians were of this character. These troops 
were experienced in the art of war, and were already 
in a very high state of discipline. Against them the 
American Commander could muster only about seven- 
teen thousand men, raw militiamen, but ten thousand 
of whom were said to be good for anything like active 
service. The design of the British General was to 
pass up the Hudson, and, by preventing any further 
union between the people of the Eastern and Middle 
States, to conquer the one and put a stop to what was 
still considered only a growing disaffection in the 
other. Accordingly, not long after their arrival off 
Staten Island, two vessels of war set out and run the 
gauntlet of the American fortifications, on their way 
up the Hudson. The American guns opened on them 



180 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

as thej passed, but the wind being favorable, they re- 
ceived little or no damage ; by taking advantage, also, 
of a very high tide, the enemy's vessels cleared the 
sunken hulks without any difficulty. After passing 
the forts, they anchored in Tappan Zee, a broad part 
of the river some forty miles above the city. In this 
position they could not be reached from the shore, and 
they could intercept whatever supplies came down the 
river for the American army. 

The most that could be done by the American com- 
mander to annoy the enemy in their new position was 
done faithfully. To this end fire-boats were con- 
structed, and clievaux-de-frise was sunk across the 
river. Fourteen fire-ships were prepared to sail 
secretly among the enemy's vessels of war, and de- 
stroy them by burning. But, as it turned out, noth- 
ing came of all these ingenious devices. The Ameri- 
cans should have had a well-equipped navy, in order 
to compete successfully with the enemy hovering on 
their coasts. There was one invention, however, that 
excited a great deal of interest then, and deserves to 
be mentioned in this place. It was a marine appar- 
atus, called the " American Turtle," and was the de- 
vice of a man by the name of Bushnell, belonging to 
Connecticut. It was a machine, shaped as nearly 
like a turtle as might be, large enough in its interior 
to contain a man, and provided with a galvanic ap- 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 181 

paratus and a supply of powder with which, after 
having first secured the powder to the bottom of the 
enemy's vessel, to produce an explosion. The man 
sitting within it could row himself about in any di- 
rection, and was furnished with lead ballast to sink 
himself out of sight below the surface of the water. 

It so chanced that Bushnell could not accompany 
this machine on the expedition for which it was de- 
signed, and so a fellow named Bije (Abijah) Ship- 
man was procured in his place. Putnam, with sev- 
eral other officers, went down to the shore, early one 
morning, the design being to drift down the stream 
and fasten his explosive instrument underneath the 
flag-ship of Admiral Howe, — the Eagle. Just as he 
was about to ensconce himself within the curious 
craft, he must needs imagine that he could not get 
along without a quid of tobacco. He struck his head 
out of his hiding-place, and told Gen. Putnam that he 
must have a fresh cud, the old cud in his mouth 
would not last him half the way there. Kone of the 
officers could just then supply his want, though they 
promised him all he wanted at a future time. He 
declared he knew the plan would fail, and all for the 
want of a fresh chew of tobacco ! It did fail. Put^ 
nam watched late into the morning to witness the ex- 
plosion under the Admiral's ship, but none took 
place. He studied the proceeding keenly through his 



182 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

glass, and at last descried the little black object drift- 
ing away just to the left of the Eagle. It had not 
come np quite in the right place. The sentinels on 
board the ship saw it as it rose, and fired off their 
muskets at the strange object. " Bije " went under 
as if they had sunk him with their shot. He had de- 
tached his powder magazine, which exploded in about 
an hour after, as designed, throwing up a tremendous 
spout of water all around. The Eagle, as well as the 
other vessels of the fleet near by, made haste to lift 
their anchors out of the mud and sail away. From 
that day until J^e-vv York finally fell into the hands 
of the British, their vessels kept at a very safe and 
respectful distance. " Bije " declared that he got 
his turtle under the Eagle, as intended ; but, on the 
first trial, the screw wath which he was to secure the 
powder-magazine to her bottom struck against a piece 
of iron ; this made him " narvous," and he could do 
nothing afterwards! It all fell through, just because 
he was obliged to hurry off without a fresh cud of to- 
bacco ! * 



* David Bushnell, the inventor of the torpedo, was too 
frail in body to endure the labor of rowing it. He however 
taught his brother to manage it perfectly. The latter was 
unfortunately down with a fever at this time, and so the 
work was committed to the care of Shipman, who was 
not trained to it. Whether the " chaw " of tobacco would 
have made good his lack of skill and training is a matter 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 183 

"Washington ordered Gen. Greene to take up his po- 
sition at Brooklyn, on Long Island, which was 
strongly fortified against an attack from the Island, 
by a line of defences extending around from Walla- 
bout Bay to Gowanus's Bay. These were considered 
sufficient protection against the approaches of the 
British by the land, while other defences furnished 
security against attacks by sea. Behind these de- 
fences, stretching from one bay to the other, was a 
high ridge, — or back-bone, so to call it, — thickly cov- 
ered with a growth of wood. There were only three 
places where they could be traversed by a force of cav- 
alry, or through which artillery could be taken ; and 
at these three points were roads, regularly con- 
structed, which led from the ferry at the Narrows to 
Brooklyn itself. 

Unfortunately enough. Gen. Greene fell sick of a 
fever, just at this critical time, and the command 
devolved on Gen. Sullivan. On the 2 2d day of Aug- 
ust, the British, under command of Gen. Clinton, 
commenced landing from their ships, being well pro- 
tected by their guns. They made one encampment 
at Flatland, and another, chiefly of Hessians, at 
Flatbush. The British were divided, in fact, into 

of conjecture. The explosion certainly had the effect of 
instilling into the British no small degree of terror, though 
it did fail to destroy the flag-ship. 



184 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

three sections; a right, a centre, and a left. Lord 
Cornwallis commanded the first, De Heister the sec- 
ond, and Grant the third. The wooded heights 
formed the natural barrier between the two armies. 
If the British, therefore, were to fall upon the Amer- 
ican forces, they could hope to reach them only by 
one of the three roads, or passes, above mentioned. 

Washington sent over Gen. Putnam to take com- 
mand of the cam J) in Brooklyn, on Sunday, the 25th 
day of August. The battle — called the Battle of 
Long Island in history — took place on the 2Tth. 
With Putnam likewise went over a reinforcement of 
troops, consisting of six battalions. The directions 
were particularly to protect the passes through the 
woods by every means possible. Gen. Sullivan had 
pushed forward from the American camp in Brook- 
lyn, and erected a strong redoubt on the heights that 
commanded Flatbush, where the Hessians lay in 
force. 

To the east of the wood, there was a narrow pass 
that conducted from Jamaica to Bedford, and so to 
the rear of the American works occupied by Gen. 
Sullivan. This was so circuitous to reach that it was 
thought the point least in danger ; and perhaps, also, 
in consequence of the sudden illness of Gen. Greene 
and the consequent change of command, its impor- 
tance as a post in the entire plan of defences had not 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 185 

received quite as much attention as it deserved. Gen. 
Clinton found out that the party which guarded this 
pass was not so strong but that they might be easily 
overcome; and in order to take timely advantage of 
the discovery, he left his camp at Flatland, at nine 
o'clock on the evening of the 26th, and stealthily 
marched round to surprise the militia stationed there. 
He reached the place just before the day dawned; 
and so unexpected was his approach, that the entire 
party surrendered themselves prisoners, without offer- 
ing any resistance. This single point turned the en- 
tire fortunes of the day. 

Clinton had previously arranged, that at about the 
time when he should have taken this pass, the right 
division should make demonstrations on the Ameri- 
can left, or against the other extreme of their lines, 
in order to draw off their attention from the real 
danger. These arrangements were carried out to the 
letter, and with surprising success. Gen. De Heister 
also made a simultaneous attack with his Hessians 
upon Gen. Sullivan's redoubt over Flatbush. But 
neither attack was intended to be much more than 
a feint to keep the Americans from any suspicion of 
the real design. So that Clinton finally stole unob- 
served through the easterly pass, leading from Ja- 
maica, with the van of the British army, supplied 
with all the artillery and cavalry he would be likely 



186 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

to require, and successfully turned the American left. 
And not until the British had, in fact, come round 
and suddenly burst on the American rear, -were the 
latter aware of their danger. De Heister now seri- 
ously attacked Gen. Sullivan's works in the centre, 
while Clinton came upon them in the rear. There 
they were, hemmed in between two divisions of a 
hostile army. There was no alternative but to sur- 
render, and Sullivan did surrender. He was taken 
prisoner himself, as well as a large part of the force 
under his immediate command. Many of the Amer- 
icans, however, fought their desjDerate way through 
the enemy that pressed hotly upon them, and re- 
treated in safety to the camp at Brooklyn. 

At the same time that the battle was going on 
between the American centre and the British centre, 
as above described. Gen. Grant was bringing up the 
British left to attack the American right, commanded 
by Lord Stirling. This resulted also in a rout of 
the latter force, most of whom, however, made good 
their way back to Brooklyn. Stirling was himself 
taken prisoner, together with the body of militia he 
had led forward to the vigorous assault which he 
made upon the enemy in order the better to cover 
the retreat of the remainder. Sullivan did all that 
a brave man, suddenly surrounded by an enemy far 
superior in mmibers, could have hoped to do. lie 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 18Y 

foiiglit bravely for two long hours, maintaining his 
ground for that time against odds that would have 
appalled many a commander less courageous and self- 
reliant than he. 

Gen. Washington came over from iN'ew York dur- 
ing the heat of the engagement, and, from the camp 
in Brooklyn, himself witnessed the hopeless loss of 
the day. The British were two against the Ameri- 
cans' one, and our troops were in all respects inferior 
to those whom they were called to meet. The Com- 
mander-in-chief could not suppress his deep excite- 
ment at seeing the havoc thus suddenly produced by 
the enemy; yet there was nothing that he could do 
then to retrieve the fallen fortunes of his army.* 
Gen. Putnam continued to carry out his orders in 
strengthening the defences of the camp, and provid- 
ing for the next step that had already been decided 
on. For it became instantly evident that the Amer- 
icans could not hold their present position. They 
must either risk another attack from Clinton which 
could terminate only in signal disaster, or take coun- 
sel of prudence, and retreat. f 

* As he looked on that desperate encounter, in which the 
struggling patriots were hopelessly forced back, he ex- 
claimed: "Good God! what brave fellows I must this day 
lose ! " 

f " The cause of the defeat," writes Livingston, " is appar- 
ent at once. The flanking force on the Jamaica Road out- 



188 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Washington chose the latter. Had the British pur- 
sued their success without any delay, they would un- 
questionably have struck the last and heaviest blow at 
the American Revolution ; it would then have ap- 
peared on the pages of history only as a rebellion. 
But in the very flush and excitement of victory, they 
suffered the main advantage, and their only perma- 
nent advantage, too, to escape them. The neglect 
was very similar to that of which they were guilty 
immediately after carrying the works on Bunker 
Hill.* There were less than five thousand Americans 
in this battle, on the 27th of August, of which num- 
ber the army lost some eleven hundred, and the most 
of those, prisoners. The estimate goes that nearly 
two thirds of all who were engaged were under Lord 
Stirling, on the American right, the greater part of 
whom effected their retreat to the camp in perfect 
safety. The prisoners taken comprised the small par- 
ties at the pass on the Jamaica road, who were cap- 
numbered the whole American army. The wonder . . . 
is not that five thousand half-trained soldiers were de- 
feated by twenty thousand veterans, but that they should 
have given General Howe a hard day's work in defeating 
them, thus leading the British general to pause and giving 
Washington time to plan the withdrawal of his army from 
its exposed situation." 

* It is probable that General Howe learned from his ex- 
perience at Bunker Hill to be extremely cautious in attack- 
ing Americans who were fully intrenched. 



OPERATIONS IN NEW YORK. 189 

tiired by Clinton before daybreak, and the body under 
Gen. Sullivan, who found themselves suddenly beset 
on one side by the Hessians, and on the other by the 
British, under Clinton, who had stolen around and 
fallen upon their rear. 

The enemy, instead of pushing forward at the 
moment of victory, contented themselves with sitting 
down before the American defences, and at once be- 
gan to erect batteries from which to assail them. 
Clinton fell to this work with energy, on the very 
next night after the battle. On that same night, too, 
Washington and Putnam silently removed their 
camp, with all its provisions, equipage, ammunition, 
and general accompaniments, and went over the river. 
There were nine thousand men to be got across, and it 
must all be done in a few hours, and in perfect 
silence. Washington proved himself equal to so won- 
derful a task; one which has rarely been equalled, 
certainly never surpassed, in the annals of successful 
or unsuccessful war. The British sentinels descried 
the American rear-guard crossing over in the midst 
of the fog, just as the day broke in the east. The 
latter were clear out of reach of the enemy's guns, 
and had eluded them in a way they least expected. 

The entire American army, therefore, now lay con- 
centrated in New York. Governor's Island was aban- 
doned, and all the troops were called in. The British. 



190 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

possessed themselves of the deserted positions on Long 
Island without any delay, and thus the two armies 
were separated only by the narrow breadth of East 
Eiver, at the farthest point not more than a half mile 
across. 



CHAPTER X. 

EETEEAT OF THE AMEKICAN" AKMY. 

!A loxg line of fortifications was at once erected 
by the British on Long Island. A portion of their 
fleet sailed around and entered the Sound at its east- 
ern extremity, but the main body of it remained at 
anchor not far from Governor's Island, to operate 
in the direction of either the East or Hudson river, 
as the case might be. 

Washington's quick eye saw what was the enemy's 
object, at a glance. They intended to cut off his 
communication with the back country, and by sur- 
rounding him and his army where they then were — • 
on JSTew York Island, — to compel a speedy surrender, 
and so bring the war at once to a close. In order to 
foil the enemy, he proceeded to send off the stores 
that were not immediately required for the army. 
Next he formed the army into three divisions, one 
of which remained to defend the city, which was 
placed under command of General Putnam, — one was 
sent to Kingsbridge, some distance up the island, 
— and one was stationed between the other two, so as 
191 



192 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

to be ready to go to the help of either in case of 
an attack. Thus they remained from the 8th of Sep- 
tember until the 12th. It was plain that an assault 
was to made very soon, and a council of war at 
last concluded it was best to evacuate the city forth- 
with. The stores had already been removed, and were 
now safe. On the 15th of September the retreat it- 
self began. It commenced a little sooner than was 
at first intended, on account of an attack from the 
enemy at Kip's Bay, some three miles above the city. 
The Americans who were stationed there fled in a 
cowardly manner when they saw the enemy approach- 
ing, and the reinforcement of two brigades sent up 
from the city by Putnam, likewise turned and fled 
as soon as they came in sight of the deserted works. 
Washington hurried to the spot in a towering excite- 
ment, and with his flashing sword ordered the panic- 
stricken men whom he met to turn back and give the 
enemy battle. But neither menaces nor personal ex- 
ample availed. For himself he appeared perfectly 
reckless. He was left almost alone within eighty 
yards of the enera^'^, who were already beginning to 
surround him ; and had not some of the soldiers who 
were near sprang forward and forcibly turned his 
horse by the bridle, he must have been taken pris- 
oner.* 

* The noise of the fighting at Kipp's Bay was heard by 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. I93 

Upon this movement, the Americans fell back upon 
Harlem Heights. The British ships — a part of them 
— three days afterwards moved towards the upper 
end of the island on the Hudson river side, and an- 
chored opposite Bloomingdale. Putnam retreated 
last from the city, and of course was exposed to a 
double danger; he had to run the gauntlet of the 
enemy now occupying the main road on the easterly 
side of the island, and the fire of the ships that had 
taken position on the Hudson at Bloomingdale. He 
chose the latter route for his retreat, and began his 
rapid march. It was an extremely sultry day, and 
the men were quite overcome with the heat and fa- 

both Washington and Putnam, and the two generals started 
in haste for the scene. By chance they met, and Putnam 
was present when Washington tried in vain to rally his 
men. This was one of the occasions when the calm and 
self-contained commander-in-chief completely lost control 
of his temper. He rode among the panic-stricken soldiers, 
roundly abusing them for their cowardice, and even strik- 
ing some of them with his cane. Putnam, too, did his ut- 
most to rally the men. Then it occurred to him that if 
the British were able to extend their lines across from 
the Hudson to the East River, the patriot army would be 
caught in a trap and forced to surrender. Their only hope 
of safety, therefore, was to escape at once. Accordingly 
he rode back to the city at full gallop to get his troops 
away while there was time. His aide-de-camp Burr had 
divined the situation tolerably accurately and started the 
troops at once. Thus Putnam, on his return, found his 
army already in motion; which was very fortunate, for 
at that crisis the fate of the cause hung upon the few 
minutes of prompt marching. 



194 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

tigue. They fell fainting by the side of the road, as 
they hurried on; they stopped to slake their feverish 
thirst at the brooks, and lay down and died while in 
the act of drinking. The exertions made that day by 
General Putnam were almost superhuman. He 
pushed his horse to the top of his speed, riding from 
one end of his division to the other. The animal 
was flecked with foam. Major Humphreys, his biog- 
rapher, who was with him on that trying occasion, 
wrote that when they had nearly reached Blooming- 
dale, an aide-de-camp came from Putnam at full 
speed, to inform the regiment to which he belonged 
that a column of British infantry was close upon their 
right. The regiment filed off rapidly to the left, 
and their rear was fired upon just as they had slipped 
past the line which the British had now succeeded 
in drawing across from river to river.* The Colonel 
of the regiment was shot down and killed on the spot. 
The other divisions of the army had given up General 
Putnam's command for lost; and it was not until 
after dark that his brigades all came in safety inside 

* It is said that if the British had been ten minutes 
earlier they would have cut off Putnam's retreat and cap- 
tured his army. Their mistalce was in their over confi- 
dence. They supposed that their victory at Kipp's Bay 
settled matters, and so they moved with deliberation. The 
clever trick of Mrs. Murray, narrated in the next para- 
graph, was one of the factors that saved the army. 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 195 

the lines. Considering the many difficulties with 
■which Putnam had to contend, his safe retreat is to be 
set down as a truly wonderful performance. 

Sir Henry Clinton had hurried over from Kip's 
Bay, on the easterly side, expecting to cut off Put- 
nam's force, should it previously have escaped the 
snares set for it below. In the pursuit of this plan, 
it was necessary for him to pass along the east of 
Murray Hill, and intercept the Americans at a point 
beyond. On Murray Hill lived a gentle but very 
shrewd Quaker lady, the mother of the well-known 
grammarian, Lindley Murray. General Putnam 
sent forward a message to her, requesting her, when 
Sir Henry Clinton should reach her house, to detain 
him by some innocent stratagem until the American 
army could have time to get beyond his reach. The 
course of the latter lay to the west of the hill, and so 
on northwardly. Presently the British general came 
along. Mrs. Murray was kno'WTi to several of the of- 
ficers, and it was thought no more than an act of court- 
esy in her to go to the door and invite them all in to 
take a glass of wine. They were glad to accept such 
an invitation, and accordingly went in and sat down 
to her hospitalities. The ladies present engaged the 
officers in agreeable conversation, and they very soon 
became oblivious how time was flying. Presently 
a negro servant, who had been stationed by his mis- 



196 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

tress on the top of the house to keep watch, entered 
the room and gave the sign previously agreed on. 
Upon which Mrs. Murray begged Sir Henry Clinton 
to step out after her, as she had something she 
wished to show him. He followed her in silence to 
the observatory on the house-top; and she then 
pointed triumphantly to the retreating column of 
Americans in the distance, already marching over the 
plains of Bloomingdale. The General did not so 
much as stop to take his leave, much less to thank 
liis fair hostess for her hospitalities; but dashed at 
a headlong pace down the stairs, mounted his horse, 
and called on his troops to follow after at the top 
of their speed. But his intended victims had quite 
escaped him. The hospitable 7'use of the lady had 
done its work well. 

The British under General Howe were thus in full 
possession of New York, a portion of their force 
occupying the city, but the greater part being pushed 
forward to the upper end of the island. They 
stretched their hostile lines across from one river to 
the other. Up at Kingsbridge were the Americans, 
as strongly fortified as their position allowed. Ad- 
vanced posts were also occupied by the American 
troops, at one of which General Putnam was placed 
in command. Parties of the enemy appeared in the 
plains between the two hostile camps, shortly after 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 197 

the retreat of the Americans to Kingsbridge. Lieut. 
Col. Knowlton, — a very brave young officer from 
Connecticut, who served at the rail-fence during the 
battle of Bunker Hill, — came in and reported to the 
Commander-in-chief the strength of one of these skir- 
mishing parties. He was immediately ordered to 
make a circuit and gain the enemy's rear, at the 
same time that an attack was made on them in front. 
The enemy saw fit to change their position before 
Knowlton became aware of it, and he fell upon them 
rather in flank than in rear. In the heat of the con- 
flict, to which he led his men forward with very 
marked bravery, he fell, pierced with the enemy's 
bullets. His wounds proved mortal ; but the men 
under him maintained their ground, and finally drove 
the British from their position entirely. Xo one in 
the army felt the death of Knowlton more than Gen- 
eral Putnam. He was his particular pet and fav- 
orite; he had served under him in the French and 
Indian war, was also present at the taking of Mon- 
treal, and bore a part in the memorable hardships 
attendant on the Havana expedition. He was born 
but a few miles above Pomfret, in the town of Ash- 
ford, and had risen from rank to rank in the army 
with great rapidity. General Washington lamented 
his death in his general orders of the next day, taking 
the same occasion to hold him up to the army as an 



198 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

example of bravery well worth their emulation. In 
contrasting the conduct of the men on that day with 
their cowardly conduct at Kip's Bay, Washington ob- 
served that this last skirmish showed " what may be 
done, where officers and soldiers will exert them- 
selves." 

The policy of the British commander now, as the 
armies lay opposite one another, was to bring on a 
general engagement. Washington, however, was 
averse to putting so much to hazard. While he felt 
very certain that in a pitched battle he could hardly 
expect anything but defeat, he was also quite as well 
satisfied that he had it in his power to harass the 
enemy to the last extremity of endurance. Upon this 
latter, and only remaining plan, therefore, he had at 
last determined.* 

But General Howe was not yet willing to give over 

all further efforts to tempt, or force, the American 

commander into the field. Disappointed, however, in 

one way, he was none the less ready to try another. 

* The two armies lay facing each other for about a 
month. During this time Putnam's men executed one of 
their dare-devil feats. On the plain below his camp, and 
between his line and that of the British, there was a fine 
field of wheat ready for the harvest. Putnam's men went 
out at night and succeeded in gathering in about one half 
the crop, when the dawning of the day revealed the harves- 
ters. The British came dov/n in greatly superior numbers, 
and Putnam's men withdrew with their prize without giv- 
ing battle. 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 199 

Accordingly he set on foot a plan to gain their rear, 
cut them off from all communication with supplies 
in the back country, and, having thus surrounded 
them, to force them to lay down their arms. ISTothing 
was more plausible, in the way of a plan, and the re- 
sults expected from it would be very certain to follow ; 
but the trouble arose in the attempt to carry it out 
into practice. Still, Howe was eager to make such 
an attempt. For this purpose, he ordered several ves- 
sels of war up the Hudson, which managed to pass 
Forts Washington and Lee without receiving any ma- 
terial damage; a few davs afterwards he took with 
him, in flat bottomed boats, a large part of his army 
up through Hell Gate, and landed at Throg's iN'eck, 
not far from the village of Westchester. This was 
about nine miles above the American encampment on 
the heights of Harlem. 

The British next set out across the country in the 
direction of White Plains. The American force lay 
stretched along a line some dozen miles in extent, all 
the way from Kingsbridge to White Plains. They 
invariably held possession of the heights along the 
route, which gave them every desirable natural advan- 
tage. As General Howe had now disposed the two 
armies by his new movement, the little Bronx river 
was all that lay between them. On the other bank of 
the Bronx, and about a mile from the main body, was 



200 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

posted Gen. McDongall, with fifteen hundred militia. 
He occupied a hill also, and it was easy for his men 
to wade the river over to the main body, at the point 
where he was stationed. Howe determiucd to attack 
this position of Gen. McDougall, for which purpose 
.he despatched one body of Hessian troops to march 
around and surprise him in rear, while a second body 
of British and Hessians came up and assailed him in 
front. The Americans, after a vigorous resistance, 
were compelled to give way, but they kept up a 
spirited and galling fire from behind the stone walls 
as they retreated. Putnam was ordered to reinforce 
McDougall, and hastened to do so; but he met the 
latter in full retreat, and it was not judged proper 
to try to retake the height from which his men had 
been dislodged. 

"Washington expected that the British would follow 
up this advantage with a general attack, and he 
labored energetically through the night to increase the 
strength of his present defences. Howe concluded to 
postpone the attack, however, till another occasion. 
In the meantime, on the night of the first of ISTovem- 
ber, which was dark and opportune for the purpose, 
"Washington withdrew his whole army to a post about 
five miles distant, whither he had already managed 
to send his baggage and provisions. Howe was not 
inclined to offer him any further molestation where 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 201 

he was, but turned his attention to Forts Washing- 
ton and Lee, which the Americans continued to hold, 
much to the annoyance of the British, because they 
were still in their rear. First he made a demonstra- 
tion against Fort Independence, at Kingsbridge. 
The Americans deserted that fortification as soon as 
they saw the British approaching, and retreated to 
Fort Washington. A detachment of British pursued, 
and took up a position between Fort Washington and 
Fort Lee; while the rest of the army, with General 
Howe at their head, returned by the Hudson to New 
York. 

It was thus apparent to Washington that Howe 
contemplated an invasion of l^ew Jersey. To pro- 
vide against this, he ordered General Putnam to take 
command of all the troops enlisted from the west of 
the Hudson, and to cross the river at once. This he 
did on the 8th of November, and posted himself at 
Hackensack. Fort Lee was placed in the command of 
General Greene, with power to defend Fort Washing- 
ton, which was on the New York side of the river. 
Greene was invested with discretionary powers in 
relation to the defence of these two posts, and a dif- 
ference of opinion arose between himself and Wash- 
ington as to the policy of attempting to hold them 
any longer. The Commander-in-chief believed the 
effort useless, especially as the enemy were concen- 



202 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

trating their forces for an assault ; but Greene 
thought they should be held to the very last, and 
proceeded to strengthen Fort Washington according- 
ly. He placed Colonel McGaw in command there, 
with "what he considered an adequate force to defend 
the place. On the 15th of November, McGaw re- 
ceived a summons from Gen. Howe to surrender, 
threatening, if he did not, that the garrison should 
be put to the sword. McGaw refused, and sent a 
despatch across the river to Greene, informing him 
of his situation. Greene in turn forwarded the intel- 
ligence to General Washington, who was at Hacken- 
sack with Putnam. Washington hastened to Fort 
Lee, and, not finding Greene there, pushed in the 
night across the river to the other fort. He met 
Greene and Putnam in the river, on the way back, 
with the news that the garrison would hold out with- 
out any difficulty. Accordingly all three went back to 
Fort Lee. On the very next day, however, the Brit- 
ish general stormed Fort Washington and put the gar- 
rison to the sword, as he had threatened. On that 
single da}^, three thousand of the Americans perished. 
It was worse than useless now to attempt to hold 
Fort Lee, and Washington directed the immediate 
removal of the ammunition and stores. They set 
to work to accomplish this as hastily as possible ; but 
before they could fairly get clear of danger, they 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 203 

found themselves nearly hemmed in by a British 
force under Lord Cornwallis, on the tract between 
the Hudson and Hackensack rivers. 

They managed to secure their escape across the 
Hackensack, but it was at a great risk ; and even then, 
they left their cannon, tents, and a large quantity 
of stores behind them, which in their precipitate 
flight they were compelled to relinquish. And now 
they were hardly better off than before ; for parallel 
with the Hackensack runs the Passaic for a long dis- 
tance. The British could again hem them in, if they 
followed up the pursuit ; and to avoid the same dan- 
ger the second time, they effected another hasty re- 
treat across the Passaic. 

"Now began to set in the dark days of the Revolu- 
tion. The militia were discouraged with nothing but 
retreat and defeat, and left the army in large numbers 
as fast as their terms of enlistment expired. The 
military stores amounted to scarcely anything worth 
mentioning. It was late in ISTovember, and bleak 
winter was close at hand. Kot more than three thou- 
sand men in all still remained under the standard of 
Washington. All around them were disaffected per- 
sons and open loyalists; and the army had thus a 
double foe to fight, and a double danger to overcome. 
One by one the cities of ]^ew Jersey fell into the 
enemy's hands, — Newark, Kew Brunswick, Prince- 



204 Life of general Israel putnam. 

ton, and Trenton ; tliej took possession of the country 
as fast as the Americans retreated. And when that 
" phantom of an army " — as Hamilton called it, — 
that still clung to Washington, crossed the Delaware 
on the eighth day of December, there was nothing but 
that single river between the over-running enemy and 
the city where the Continental Congress daily met 
to consult for the future of the nation that was not 
yet born. The brothers Howe — the General and the 
Admiral — seemed to have everything their own way. 
They held the entire country from Rhode Island to 
the Delaware, and none knew how long before they 
would strike the blow, so much dreaded, against Phil- 
adelphia itself. They also scattered proclamations all 
over the land, especially among those who had not yet 
fully decided to embrace the cause of America against 
England; and in these proclamations they freely 
offered pardon and favor to all who, witliin a given 
time, would take the oath of allegiance to the King. 
A great number embraced the offer thus made, and 
by so much of course darkened the prospects of those 
who were still hoping and toiling for the ultimate in- 
dependence of their country. 

General Putnam stood by his great Commander's 
side through the whole of this dark disaster, unshaken 
in his resolution to do all that he could do for his 
native land. When others faltered^ he never hesi- 



EETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 205 

tated or swerved. Upon him Washington knew that 
he could depend, even if all others finally failed him. 
Congress having resolved that Philadelphia should 
be defended to the last extremity, Putnam was di- 
rected to enter upon the work of erecting the proper 
■fortifications. " Upon the salvation of Philadel- 
phia," wrote Washington, " our cause almost de- 
pends." His selection of Putnam to take supreme 
conmiand there, sufficiently attests the high confi- 
dence he reposed in his ability and character. He 
wrote to the President of Congress, on the 9th of 
December, that " a communication of lines and re- 
doubts from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, on the 
north entrance of the city, might be formed ; " that 
" every step should be taken to collect a force, not 
only from Pennsylvania, but from the neighboring 
states ; " and that the communication by water should 
be kept open for supplies. Putnam found a disaf- 
fected class of people, — and people of wealth and in- 
fluence, too, — in the city, against whom it was very 
trying for him to set up his own authority, with 
any hope of success; yet he did succeed in bringing 
order out of disorder, and by his sleepless energy 
established the authority of the ximerican arms. He 
was summoned before Congi-ess to confer with that 
body respecting the city's safety, and in obedience to 
his suggestions they resolved to adjourn, and did ad- 



206 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNMI. 

journ on the 12tli to meet again on the 20th of De- 
cember, in Baltimore. 

He at once placed the city under martial law, as 
he had previously done at the time he held supreme 
command in 'New York. Yet he was extremely pru- 
dent about making any display of his authority, too ; 
doing nothing that would cause needless irritation on 
the part of the disaffected inhabitants, and using 
every proper means to conciliate their confidence and 
good will. He labored to complete the defences, with 
all his energy ; so arduous were his exertions, that his 
health for a time gave way under them. He had, 
in fact, a double duty to perfonn; to erect defences 
against the enemy without, and to secure himself 
from an enemy equally formidable within the city. 
It was while General Putnam was thus engaged, that 
Washington boldly moved forward and struck two 
decisive blows, — at Trenton, and then at Princeton,* 

* On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington, with 
2,400 men, crossed the Delaware river, pushing his way 
through the formidable ice floes. The next day he marched 
the ten miles to Trenton in the face of a severe storm, and 
attacked and defeated a force of 1,500 Hessians under Rahl. 
About one thousand Hessian prisoners were captured. 

In the battle of Princeton, which was fought January 
3, 1777, Washington defeated a portion of the army of 
Cornwallis and captured the town. 

These victories were timely, and they did great service 
to the cause by reviving the drooping spirits of the pa- 
triots. There is no medicine for a discouraged army like 
the news of a rousing victory. 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. £07 

— which suddenly electrified and energized the whole 
army and country. It was a part of the plan to have 
Putnam cooperate in these brilliant exploits of the 
Commander-in-chief, both with a portion of his Phil- 
adelphia troops and a body of Pennsylvania militia ; 
but the fear of a sudden rising among the loyalists 
of the city made such a design impracticable. Two 
letters from Washington to Putnam, one just on the 
eve of these bold enterprises, indicate very plainly 
what were the feelings of the Commander-in-chief at 
that time. In the first, he advises General Putnam 
to remove the public stores to a place of greater 
safety, as the enemy had said they would enter the 
town within twent}'- days; but in the other, written 
some days afterwards, he expresses the opinion that 
the British are seized with a panic, and that he will 
yet be able to drive them out of the Jerseys altogether. 
Finding that affairs were thus taking a favorable 
turn, he ordered Putnam into the field again. He 
was directed, on the 5th of January, 1777, to march 
the troops under his command to Crosswick, a few 
miles southeast of Trenton, where he might be able 
both to keep a strict watch on the enemy and to 
obtain any advantage that offered. Washington's 
plan was to harass the British army by every method 
within the reach of his ingenuity. Putnam was or- 
dered to keep spies out continually, so that he might 



208 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

not be taken by surprise ; and also to make it appear 
to the enemy, by such means as he could, that his 
force was a great deal stronger than it really was. 
Inasmuch as the British seemed inclined to make no 
demonstration against them, but rather concentrated 
for the remainder of the winter in i^ew Brunswick 
and Amboy, Putnam was soon after ordered into win- 
ter quarters at Princeton, Avhich was some fifteen 
miles distant. He had but a handful of troops with 
him at the most; and had he been attacked in his 
position at any time, Avould have been forced to re- 
treat without offering battle. 

He employed every device to conceal from the 
enemy the actual paucity of his numbers. In the 
battle of Princeton, Capt. McPherson, a Scotch offi- 
cer, had received a wound which it was thought 
was about to terminate fatally. Until Putnam quar- 
tered in the to\\Ti, how^ever, he had not even had medi- 
cal attendance, it being considered that, as he was 
likely to die any day, it was therefore quite useless; 
but Putnam provided him with a careful physician, 
as soon as his case was known, who did all that he 
could for his relief. Being in his presence one day, 
the Scotchman protested his gratitude, and asked Put- 
nam to what country he belonged. " I am a Yankee," 
said the general. " I did not believe," answered 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARMY. 209 

tlie sufferer, " tliat there could be so much goodness 
in an American, or in anybody but a Scotchman." 
The poor fellow thought himself about to die, at 
length, and begged that a British officer, a friend of 
his, might be sent for, under a flag of truce, to come 
and help him make his will. Putnam wished to 
gratify the dying man's request, but it would not 
answer to let a British officer see what a meagre force 
he had around him. Indeed, to tell the truth, he 
had but fifty men in the town at the time, all the 
rest of his men having been sent out to protect the 
country around. Putnam's mother wit, however, was 
as ready as ever to serve him. He sent out a flag 
of truce with the errand, enjoining upon the messen- 
ger not to return with the British officer until after 
darJc. The moment evening came on, therefore, Put- 
nam had all the windows in the college buildings 
illuminated, as well as those in the other vacant 
houses of the town. He likewise kept his little squad 
of fifty men marching up and down the streets con- 
tinually, and making as much of a martial display 
as possible. Under such highly imposing circum- 
stances was the British officer conducted to the quar- 
ters of his Scotch friend, and finally suffered to de- 
part. When he got back to the British camp again, 
he reported that General Putnam could not have 



14 



210 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

under bis command a force of less than five thousand 



-X- 



men. 

To protect the friends of the American cause from 
the persecutions of loyalists, was a duty that during 
this time engaged much of the labor of Putnam, 
and likewise exercised all the judgment, delicacy, 
tact, and prudence, of which he was the possessor. 
The rest of the winter was occupied chiefly with 
skirmishes. Col. Neilson was sent, on the 17th of 
February, with a hundred and fifty men, to sur- 
prise a party of loyalists that had fortified themselves 
at Lawrence's Neck. There were sixty of the other 
party, belonging to what was called Cortlandt Skin- 
ner's brigade. They were all taken prisoners. Major 
Stockton, their commander, was sent to Philadelphia 
by General Putnam, in irons.f 

* In this Putnam was more than fulfilling the instruc- 
tions of Washington, who wrote from Pluckamin, Jan- 
uary 5, 1777. " You will giA^e out your strength to be twice 
as great as it is." He led the enemy to believe that his 
strength in Princeton was nearly one hundred times as 
great as it was. 

t In a letter describing this action, Putnam calls the 
Tory Major Stockton " The enemy's renowned land Pilot." 
To the officers appointed to conduct the prisoners in irons 
to Philadelphia, he gave orders that " no indulgences should 
be allowed the Villains which affords them a possibil- 
ity of escape." Putnam was criticised for cruelty in this 
matter, but it must not be forgotten that he was astonish- 
ingly magnanimous to a fallen foe. He doubtless was right 
In feeling that the efficiency of the service required meas- 



RETREAT OF THE AMERICAN ARJIY. 211 

N^ot long after this, another party of foragers was 
reported to be scouring the country, and Major Smith 
was sent forward to hang on their rear until Put- 
nam himself should come up. But the Major was 
a little impatient, or ambitious of renown, and fell 
upon the party, which he had already enticed into a 
snare, putting them to rout and carrying off several 
prisoners, horses, and baggage-wagons. 

Thus the winter of 1776-7 passed away. In the 
time he had been in ISTew Jersey, General Putnam 
had taken a thousand prisoners, and at least a hun- 
dred and twenty baggage-wagons. In one skinnish 
he captured ninety-six wagons, laden with provisions 
for the enemy. He likewise by his prudence, and his 
firm but conciliatory manner, added great strength 
to the American cause, and when he left the Jerseys 
at last, which he did in May, he left them in a very 
different condition from that in which they were 
when he first set foot upon their soil. Few men, in 
the army or out, could have performed the service 
for which the Commander-in-chief thought him in 
all respects so admirably qualified, and which he 
accomplished so successfully. 

ures of severity towards the Tories who were giving much 
aid and comfort to the enemy. 



CHAPTEE XL 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 



The Britisli were manceiivring just at this time 
so strangely, that "Washington was hardly able to 
determine what object they really had in view next. 
They had a force in Canada, under Burgoyne, with 
which it was thought Howe was anxious to open a 
communication by the Hudson River; then it was 
suspected that the Canada troops would go round to 
'New York by sea, and thus effect a union with the 
troops under Howe without risking an attempt by 
land; and then again, in the month of July, it was 
a greater mystery still in which direction Howe was 
going, when he set sail with his army from the port 
of New York. All these contingencies the American 
commander was obliged carefully to guard against. 

To this end, it was necessary, first, that the fort- 
ress of Ticonderoga should be strengthened, and pro- 
vided against a surprise ; second, that the passes in 
the Highlands should be so guarded as to prevent 
any union of the two hostile armies by way of the 
river; and third, that the important post of Phila- 

212 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 213 

delpbia should be defended to the very last extremity. 
Enough, one would think, to engage all the energies 
of any commander. 

The Highlands were to be defended at all cost 
and hazard. An ingenious method had already been 
devised by Generals Greene and Knox to obstruct 
the passage of the enemy's ships up the river, by 
means of a heavy chain, supported at regular inter- 
vals by floating logs of wood, and stretched across 
from one shore to the other. A couple of armed 
vessels were also to be stationed so as to rake the 
enemy's ships, whenever they might approach. 
Arnold had been previously entrusted with the com- 
mand of the river, on account of Washington's sym- 
pathy for the treatment with which Congress had 
visited him ; but as his own private affairs compelled 
him to be in Philadelphia, his command was trans- 
ferred to Gen. Putnam, and the latter took post at 
the head of the army of the Highlands, in the month 
of May, 1777. 

The excessive labor and exposure which was re- 
quired of Gen. Putnam, while energetically carrying 
out the plans for the protection of the river, are 
thought to have brought on the sudden assault of 
disease which, not much more than two years later, 
compelled his countrymen to dispense with his active 
services altogether. The width of the river where 



214 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the cable was to be thrown across, was five hundred 
and forty yards. The cable was not to be stretched 
over in a straight line from shore to shore, but diag- 
onally, in order to offer a more effective resistance 
to the current of the river. Working early and late 
about business of this character, being out in all 
weathers, and often standing in the water for hours 
together, was quite too much for the constitution of 
a man who did not stop to consider that he was gi'ow- 
ing old, and finally resulted in serious and irreparable 
mischief. 

Hardly had he entered upon his new command, 
when Washington proposed to him a sudden descent 
upon the enemy who were fortified at Kingsbridge; 
the letter written by the latter on the subject is 
full of interest, and lets the reader into the specu- 
lations of the great man's mind in those trying times. 
But the contradictory conduct of the enemy diverted 
his attention from this design, and drew it rather to 
the preservation of the important posts he still held. 
As soon, then, as the British encampment at Bruns- 
wick was broken up, Washington made ready to op- 
pose their march upon Philadelphia, which he had 
reason to think was the direction of their next move- 
ment. In order to do this the more effectually, he 
sent for the whole of Putnam's force except a thou- 
sand men. These, with the militia of the region, 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 215 

were thouglit to be sufficient to protect his position. 
Then it was reported to Gen. Putnam that Burgojne 
was marching down upon him from the direction 
of Canada; and to provide against this, he was 
obliged to hold four regiments in readiness to march 
at a moment's warning. The great danger on the 
Hudson just then seemed to be, that Burgojne from 
above and Howe from below would succeed in unit- 
ing their forces ; and that was the plan which it was 
very evident they had for a long time entertained. 
Washington wrote him on the 1st of July thus : " l!fo 
time is to be lost. Much may be at stake, and I 
am persuaded, if Gen. Howe is going up the river, 
he will make a rapid and vigorous push to gain the 
Highland passes." 

For a long time matters were in a state of per- 
plexing uncertainty. It required all the vigilance, 
and all the energy of a most skilful and prudent 
general, to guard properly against rashness on the 
one hand and negligence on the other. The season 
wore on in this way, and nothing of a decided char- 
acter was undertaken during the summer. Putnam 
celebrated the first anniversary of the Declaration of 
Independence in the Highlands, in a rather novel 
style. A public feast was made, toasts were drunk, 
and patriotic feelings were appealed to. Guns were 
also fired in commemoration of so great an event, and 



216 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

just at sundown a huge rock was thrown over a 
precipice with a crashing sound like that of thunder, 
into the wooded valley below. The rock had stood 
just on the edge of the precipice, and weighed several 
hundred tons. 

At length Ticonderoga was abandoned * to the 
enemy; and then commenced in good earnest the 
march of the British downward upon the country 
around the Hudson. Putnam was ordered, on the 
receipt of the news, to forward a part of his force 
northward to the succor of Gen. Schuyler; and he 
also despatched Major Burr, who was still a member 
of his military staff, into Connecticut to collect re- 
cruits and send them on with all possible haste to 
Albany. Washington had by this time moved up 
nearer to the Hudson, on the Jersey side. Gen. Sul- 
livan and Lord Stirling were sent over into Putnam's 
camp, to be ready to move either to the east or west, 
as circumstances should render it necessary. Howe 
had just then set sail from New York, and gone to 
sea, taking with him a large part of the force from 
had he gone? It might be to Philadelphia, — and 
it might be to Boston. And it was necessary to keep 
the city.f The anxious inquiry therefore was. Where 

* The news of the evacuation of Ticonderoga reached 
Peekskill July 9, but Putnam refused to believe it until 
confirmations compelled him to do so. 

t This force included 18,000 men and more than two 
Jaundred vessels. 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 217 

the troops in readiness to repel his attack upon either 
place. Howe had sent a letter to Burgoyne by a 
young American, which he no doubt intended should 
fall into the hands of Gen. Putnam. The letter 

spoke of the fleet's being about to sail for " B n," 

evidently meaning Boston. Washington got the let- 
ter from Putnam, and felt all the more sure that the 
whole was only meant to deceive him ; he was con- 
fident now, that the enemy had sailed from 'New York 
for the purpose of taking Philadelphia. And he 
made ready to march with his forces at once in that 
direction. 

The fleet made its appearance off the Delaware 
cape, sure enough, and Washington sent orders across 
the Hudson to Gen. Putnam to forward even more 
troops than was before arranged for, which now left 
his post in a very precarious condition. But on the 
very next day the troops Avere sent back again, the 
enemy having opened a new game by which to deceive 
the American Commander, and keep him in continual 
suspense. And in this way the sultry season was 
passed, the troops marching this way and that about 
the country, and wearying themselves down as much 
with the fatigue as they could have done in the same 
time with active and constant service. 

It was early in the month of August that one 
Edmund Palmer, an officer in a company of Tories, 



218 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

was caught within the American lines as a spy, and 
carried before Gen. Putnam. Sir Henry Clinton, 
who commanded at ISTew York city, at once heard 
of Palmer's arrest, and sent a vessel up the river with 
the flag of truce, to demand his person as an officer 
in the English service. A boat landed from the ves- 
sel, a messenger leaped on shore, and came into the 
camp and delivered Clinton's message. Clinton 
threatened, if the spy was not given up, to visit the 
Americans with speedy vengeance. Putnam did not 
hesitate a moment, but sat do^\^l to his table, and in- 
stantly wrote the following reply to Clinton's haughty 
message : 

"IIead-quarters, August T, 1777. 
" Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy's ser- 
vice, was taken as a siJy lurking within our lines; 
he has been tried as a spy, condemned as a spy, and 
shall be executed as a spy, and the flag is ordered to 
depart immediately. 

"Israel PuTiifAM." 

" P. S. He has been accordingly executed." 

The oak tree was standing not many years ago, at 

Peekskill, from one of the branches of which the Tory 

spy met his fate.* 

* One exasperating result of the trials of this time was 
that the soldiers lost heart and began to desert. Putnam 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 219 

Undoubtedly Clinton had sent out Palmer to ob- 
tain information respecting the strength of Putnam's 
position. This more than ever led to the belief that 
it was his intention to cut his way through the High- 
land passes, and join his forces with those of Bur- 
goyne. General Putnam's camp was, as already men- 
tioned, in the village of Peekskill, which is on the 
east side of the Hudson. On the western side, and 
a few miles above, were Forts Clinton and Mont- 
gomery, separated by a narrow stream, but forming 
substantially, however, a single fortification. They 
were planted on very high hills, inaccessible on the 
river side, and reported by those who selected the 
position to be almost impossible for an enemy to reach 
in their rear. General George Clinton, who was at 
the time Governor of IlTew York, commanded them in 
person, having about six hundred of the militia of 
the State under him. Port Independence was on the 
eastern side, some three miles below these, while 
Fort Constitution was built on an island near the 
same shore of the river, and about nine miles above 

checked this movement by prompt and severe punishment. 
One deserter was hung and the following notice of warning 
was displayed: 

" I wish that all who have any inclination to join our 
enemies from motives of fear, ambition, or avarice, would 
take warning by this example and avoid the dreadful calam- 
ities that will inevitably follow such vile and treasonable 
practices." " Iseael Put^'am." 



220 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Fort Independence. Putnam had command of the 
whole of this region, with its fortifications, and it 
was his single task to see that the British from be- 
low did not force a passage through, and thus unite 
with the army of Burgoyne which was working down 
from above. 

At this time the General formed the bold design 
of making a sudden descent upon the British at 
Staten Island, Jersey City, York Island and Long 
Island. He was well informed of the enemy's 
strength at all these places, and felt sure of striking 
them a staggering blow. This design was to be 
carried out in the month of September. But Wash- 
ington was obliged to draw away so large a part of 
his soldiery,* that for the present Putnam reluctant- 
ly gave over the execution of his plan. 

* In his necessity, Putnam addressed to the " Colonels 
and other officers of the Army and Militia of Connecticut," 
a letter which, full as it is of the stirring spirit of patriot- 
ism, reads more like a popular speech than a military doc- 
ument. This letter, which is entirely characteristic of the 
man and the times, sets forth the depleted condition of 
his command, " which obliges me, for the common safety, 
to call upon all the officers and soldiers of the Continental 
troops and militia in the State of Connecticut, that have 
not special license to be absent, immediately to repair to 
this post, for the aid and defence thereof, and to defeat 
and crush our cruel and perfidious foes. And would we, 
my countrymen, for once lay aside our avarice, oppres- 
sion, and evil works, for which the land mourns, and the 
inhabitants thereof are distressed and terrified, and united- 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 221 

Sir Henry Clinton then took advantage of the exist- 
ing state of affairs to send two thousand men, in four 
different divisions, into 'New Jersey, for the purpose 
of committing depredations. Washington was in the 
neighborhood of Philadelphia, and Putnam had not 
men enough to offer them any opposition; and thus 
the country lay entirely open to their ravages. The 
foraging parties succeeded in driving off large num- 
bers of cattle, with which they returned in safety 
to Kew York. Putnam did send Gen. McDougall 
in pursuit of them, as soon as he heard of their con- 
duct; but he reached the scene of the troubles too 
late to protect any part of the country from the 
effects of their thieving incursion. 

On the 23d of September, Washington made a still 
larger draft on Putnam's force, which now reduced 
his command to something more than a thousand re- 
ly exert ourselves like freemen, resolved on freedom, 
througn the smiles of Heaven we should put a speedy end 
to those unnatural disturbers of our peace, and, with them, 
a period to this unhappy and bloody war, which now rav- 
ages and desolates our country, and threatens its inhab- 
itants and its posterity with the most dismal ruin and 
abject slavery. Such casualties are incident to human 
affairs, the natural result of general national depravity; 
and are avoidable only by reformation and amendment in 
the public manners of a people. 

" Awake, then, to virtue and to great military exertion, 
and we shall put a speedy and happy issue to this mighty 
contest." " Israel Putnam." 



222 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

liable men. With these alone he was expected to 
hold his own position in the Highlands. The aid 
he looked for from the militia of the country round 
about amounted to hardly more than nothing. 

Sir Henry Clinton was aware how greatly this 
force had been thus reduced, and resolved to take 
advantage of it. Accordingly he embarked with 
nearly four thousand troops on the river, and reached 
Tarrytown on the 5th of October. The reader will 
see what an excessive amount of exertion Putnam 
was now obliged to put forth, in order to hold the 
enemy in check and prevent the contemplated union 
of the army below with the army above. In the 
first place, all the troops he had would not number 
more than half what the British numbered ; and these 
were divided up at four different points, — the two 
forts on the western bank of the river, and the two 
on the eastern. Besides, these, he must also keep his 
position at Peekskill. Clinton landed at Tarrytown, 
and marched up about five miles into the country. 
Tarrytown is on the same side of the river with 
Peekskill, where lay his camp. 

The object of Clinton was merely to mislead the 
American general; for on the same night he quietly 
marched his men back to Tarrytown, and the next 
morning passed up the river again and landed at 
yerplanck's Point, which is only three miles below. 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 223 

PeekskilL Upon seeing their approach, Putnam fell 
back upon the heights in his rear, which he had forti- 
fied against such an emergency. It was then sup- 
posed, of course, that the British commander was 
directing his attack against Fort Independence, just 
above Putnam's camp; on the contrary, he had his 
eye fixed all the time on Forts Clinton and Mont- 
gomery, some six miles above Fort Independence, on 
the other side. On that same evening, therefore, the 
British fleet moved up nearer Peekskill ; while a force 
of two thousand men dropped down the river, landed 
at Stony Point — ^which is over against Verplanck's 
Point, — and struck off through the mountainous 
country early the next morning to gain the rear of 
Forts Clinton and Montgomery. They were observed 
from the western side of the river, but a dense fog and 
the interposition of the mountains shut them out from 
view soon after, and no such suspicion existed as that 
they had a thought of making a circuit around the 
difficult hills of the country. Besides, their boats 
still appeared to be at Verplanck's Point, and their 
vessels were at Peekskill neck. 

While this detachment of the enemy were thus 
pushing on to the rear of the fortresses in question, 
Putnam took a couple of general officers with him, 
and went down towards the river to reconnoitre. 
Those who had seen the enemy on the other side 



224 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

at an earlj hour of the morning, supposed that they 
mnst have returned to their station at Verplanck's 
Point, inasmuch as nothing had since been seen of 
them. But bj this time they were well on their way 
to the twin forts which they had resolved to assail. 
They were formed into two divisions ; one advanced 
through the forests and ravines, surmounting the in- 
numerable obstacles that lay in their way, intending 
to fall upon Fort Montgomery ; the other, which Clin- 
ton himself conducted, hurried round to gain the rear 
of Fort Clinton. The plan was, to commence the 
assault at the same moment. At about two o'clock 
in the afternoon it began. This was on Monday. 
Several skirmishes had been had with the outposts be- 
fore the two hostile parties reached the forts, but the 
Americans were driven back into the fortifications 
every time. For three hours the assault was kept 
up, with no abatement in its fury. It was like the 
dashing of a sudden and powerful storm. The Brit- 
ish commander sent a flag, demanding a surrender, 
after the fight had been going on for a couple of 
hours; but as the Americans refused to yield, the 
attack was renewed with increased vigor. A mes- 
senger had been sent to Putnam's camp, in the mean- 
while, to ask for assistance; but there was some 
treacherous conduct in the matter, and the message 
never was delivered at head-quarters. Putnam knew 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 225 

nothing of what was going on, until he had started 
on his return from reconnoitring the enemy at Ver- 
planck's Point ; the firing up the river had been 
heard at Peekskill, and word was brought down with 
all possible despatch. He hurried back to camp and 
sent five hundred men up the river in great haste. 
They had five miles to march before they re^ached the 
point at which they were to cross, and by the time 
they came to that, the action was all over. The news 
came that the Americans were obliged to relinquish 
their position, and, under cover of dusk, they made 
good their retreat from the forts. The contest was 
most severe and bloody, more than one third of the 
Americans within the two forts having fallen victims. 
It was midnight when Governor Clinton reached 
Peekskill in his retreat ; and at a hasty conference 
of the superior officers, it was thought worse than 
useless to try to hold that post any longer. Putnam 
therefore ordered his men to march without any 
delay ; and, the stores having been first withdrawn, 
they set out for Fishkill, some twelve miles distant 
by the road.* The two vessels were burned that had 

* In addition to the public burdens that weighed heavily 
on Putnam, private and domestic ills accumulated at this 
time. His wife came to Peekskill to visit. With her came 
her son, Septimus Gardiner, a promising lad seventeen 
years of age, who was expecting to replace Aaron Burr 
on General Putnam's staff. The lad, to whom the general, 

15 



226 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

been stationed to defend the cable thrown across the 
river, lest thej should fall into the enemy's hands. 
The British followed up their advantages without 
delay, destroying several buildings in and around 
Peekskill, sailing farther up the river and conunit- 
ting ravages at Esopus, a village just below Kingston 
on the western shore, burning stores, mills, and dwell- 
ing houses without the least compunction, and exhibit- 
ing traits of barbaric wantonness that would ill be- 
come outright savages. This conduct of itself aroused 
a feeling in that locality against the British, which 
tended more than anything to place still farther off 
their prospects of final success. These wanton and 
cruel acts were quite in keeping with their treatment 
of the wounded and dying Americans at Fort Mont- 
gomery. They bestowed upon their own dead, after 
the battle was over, a decent burial; but threw the 
bodies of the vanquished in piles into a pool not far 
from the fort, where they were left exposed to the 
elements. Dr. Dwight, who visited the place about 
seven months afterwards, in the month of May, de- 

his step-father, was deeply attached, soon fell sick and 
died. Mrs. Putnam, whose health was not robust, was 
completely prostrated by this affliction. When the general 
withdrew from Peekskill the movement was additionally 
painful owing to the fact that his wife was unable to be 
moved. On the 14th day of October, she died. This ac- 
cumulation of burden, disappointment, and sorrow, mads 
the year one of sore trial to the brave old general. 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 227 

scribes the scene that presented itself, in the following 
style : — 

" The first object which met our eyes, after we 
had left our barge and ascended the bank, was the 
remains of a fire, kindled by the cottagers of this 
solitude, for the purpose of consuming the bones of 
some of the Americans who had fallen at this place, 
and had been left unburied. Some of these bones 
were lying, partially consumed, round the spot where 
the fire had been kindled; and some had evidently 
been converted to ashes. As we went onward, we 
were distressed by the foetor of decayed hiunan bod- 
ies. As we were attempting to discover the source 
from which it proceeded, we found, at a small dis- 
tance from Tort Montgomery, a pond of a moderate 
size, in which we saw bodies of several men, who had 
been killed in the assault upon the fort. They were 
thrown into this pond, the preceding autumn, by the 
British, when, probably, the water was sufficiently 
deep to cover them. Some of them were covered at 
this time; but at a depth so small, as to leave them 
distinctly visible. Others had an arm, a leg, or a 
part of the body, above the surface. The clothes 
which they wore when they were killed, were still 
on them, and proved that they were militia, being 
the ordinary dress of farmers." 

The British were on their way up to meet Bur- 



228 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

goyne, inflated with high hopes, and drunk with their 
grand expectations; but suddenly there fell a blow 
upon those hopes, which destroyed them every one. 
The news met them that Burgoyne had surrendered 
to General Gates ! It was useless to go farther. 
They turned - their faces about without hesitation, 
and, taking to their vessels in the river, — after hav- 
ing first been at the pains to demolish two of the 
deserted American forts, — sailed down to New York. 
Putnam left Fishkill upon this, and took up his 
former station at Peekskill. lie had the great mis- 
fortune to lose his wiie while at the former place, 
in reference to which General Washington soon after- 
wards wrote him, — '' I am extremely sorry for the 
death of Mrs. Putnam, and sympathize with you 
upon the occasion. Remembering that all must die, 
and that she had lived to an honorable age, I hope you 
will bear the misfortune with that fortitude and com- 
placency of mind that become a man and a Chris- 
tian." 

It is said that Dr. Dwight then an army chap- 
lain, and afterwards President of Yale College, — 
preached a sermon to the army on the Sunday fol- 
lowing the surrender of Burgoyne, taking his text 
from Joel, 2 : 20, as follows : — " I will remove far oflF 
from you the northern army." All the officers were 
delighted with it, and General Putnam as a matter 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 229 

of course. The General walked along with the young 
chaplain, after service was over, and desired to know 
where he got his text ; " for," said he, " I don't be- 
lieve there is any such text in the Bible." D wight 
only satisfied him that there ivas such a text there, 
by producing the book and pointing it out to him. 
Putnam declared that there was everything in that 
book, and D wight knew just where to put his finger 
upon it ! 

After Burgoyne's defeat, drafts were made upon 
the northern army to increase the force of General 
Putnam, until in a short time he had nine thousand 
men under his command. With this large body at 
his disposal, he had planned an enterprise against the 
enemy below at several points, of whose success he was 
very sanguine. But the British under General Howe 
were already in possession of Philadelphia, and their 
fleet was seeking a communication with that city to 
carry them supplies. To this plan Washington 
wished to put a stop. For this purpose he sent Col. 
Alexander Hamilton to Putnam's camp, with orders 
to forward him without delay, three brigades. Ham- 
ilton then hurried on to Albany to confer with Gen- 
eral Gates. In a week he returned ; and finding that 
Putnam had not forwarded the troops as directed, 
sent an order couched in terms of the most severe 



230 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

reprimand.* lie also wrote a despatch to Washing- 
ton in relation to Putnam's neglect of his orders, 
in which he expressed the opinion that the old Gen- 
eral ought to be displaced. His language, in the let- 
ter he addressed to General Putnam, was harsh in the 

* It is impossible to apologize for General Putnam who 
here disobeyed the orders of his chief. Had the army been 
more perfectly trained, such a thing could not have oc- 
curred. One of the greatest difficulties that met Washing- 
ton — and all the generals of that war, including Putnam — 
was that of commanding an army of men who were trained 
to individual independence, and not to military obedience. 
These men, in large measure, served when they chose, and 
quit the service when they chose. The generals themselves 
were not free from such individualistic ideas of duty and 
privileges, and it required much diplomacy to hold the 
army together at all. Surely never was an army further 
from the condition of mechanical precision, which is the 
ideal of military perfection. 

If one desires to palliate Putnam's offence, these two 
facts may be considered: (1) Putnam, who was nothing if 
not a fighter, now, for the first time in many months, had 
the means of offensive operation. He had fully planned 
attacks on New York and vicinity. After his long exper- 
ience of being monotonously on the defensive, this change 
of conditions was like putting new life into his veins. The 
sudden order withdrawing his reinforcements, and dashing 
his expectation of brilliant exploits, was like the relapse 
of a patient recovering from a fever. He failed to bear 
the strain with military submissiveness. (2) It must also 
be remembered that Hamilton, brilliant as he was, was very 
young and unbearably imperious. He was just the person 
to make a disagreeable order many times more disagreeable 
than waj necessary; and the haughty manner of the strip- 
ling in communicating this order, was nicely calculated 
tp rouse all the antagonism of Putnam's rugged nature. 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 231 

extreme. Yet he excuses it on account of the depth! 
of his feelings. He said that he trembled lest Sir 
Henry Clinton with his fleet had already reached 
Howe at Philadelphia, and that all was lost. 

Putnam at once sent Hamilton's letter on to the 
Commander-in-chief, and complained of its temper 
and imputations upon him ; he said that without the 
most direct and positive orders from his commander, 
he could not think of such a thing as sending away 
the body of the force which was all he had to rely 
upon. But Washington approved the order which 
had been issued to the General and expressed himself 
dissatisfied with his' neglect to obey the same. Por 
the first time since he had entered upon the duties 
of a soldier, had he thus received the censure, whether 
deserved or not, of his superior officer. There is 
much to be said in explanation of his conduct, and to 
say that does but divide the responsibility among 
those on whom it should properly rest. Washington 
was unacquainted with the exact state of matters in 
the highlands, just at that time ; there was a mutinous 
spirit among a large portion of the troops, who 
threatened to desert altogether unless they could be 
paid ; and this Hamilton himself knew ; and Hamil- 
ton was evidently hasty, if not impetuous, and used 
language, for a young man of twenty, in his letter, 



232 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

such as no man of his years should employ towards a 
scarred veteran of sixty. 

The order of Washington having finally been com- 
plied with, General Putnam took a part of his re- 
maining force and moved down the river. General 
Dickinson made a sudden descent on Staten Island, 
on the 27th of IS'ovember, with fourteen hundred 
men ; and simultaneously with this movement Gen- 
eral Putnam ordered a diversion upon Kingsbridge, 
that the enemy might not suspect his stratagem ; but 
by some means they received intelligence of his de- 
sign, and were enabled to make good their escape. 

'Next he proceeded to New Kochelle, and at this 
point got things in readiness to cross the Sound in 
open boats and surprise the enemy at Huntington 
and Satauket ; but this design was penetrated by the 
British in time to permit them to vacate the forts 
and betake themselves to a place of safety. Then he 
projected an enterprise against Long Island to destroy 
large quantities of lumber that had been collected 
at several points by the British, for constructing bar- 
racks in New York, — to fire several coasting vessels 
that were loaded with wood for the British army then 
in possession of Newport, in Rhode Island, — to cap- 
ture what public stores they could lay their hands 
on, and to attack a regiment stationed near Jamaica. 
The whole expedition was divided into three parts, 



IN THE HIGHLANDS. 233 

and placed under the direction of as many comman- 
ders. This expedition also turned out unfortunately, 
only one sloop having been destroyed, together with 
a quantity of timber. One of the commanders was 
taken a prisoner, together with the whole of his party, 
amounting to sixty-five men. 

Governor Tryon, whose talent seemed to consist 
in destroying, and whose name will forever be asso- 
ciated in the mind of the people of western Connecti- 
cut with acts of incendiarism and wantonness, had 
been sending out parties quite freely to commit such 
depredations as they had an inclination to. Putnam 
found that the only way to put a stop to this conduct, 
was by acts of retaliation. Accordingly he despatched 
bodies of men in this direction and that, wherever it 
was possible to surprise the enemy's ofiicers in their 
position. On one of these marauding excursions the 
Americans having learned that a noted Tory named 
Colonel James Delancy was at the village of West 
Farms, a little below Westchester, they stealthily 
approached and surrounded the house in the night, 
and then hurried in to ransack it for their prisoner. 
Delancy was in bed, and heard them coming. Not 
knowing what else to do, he bounded out and crept un- 
derneath with all possible agility. But the warm bed 
he had just left testified to his presence; and after 
searching carefully all about the room, they at last 



234 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

discovered him in his novel hiding place, and pro- 
ceeded to draw him forth in triumph to public view. 
It was not a very dignified or brave position for a 
Colonel to be found in, but there he was. They bore 
him away to head-quarters a prisoner. Clinton found 
the means to procure his release before long, by pro- 
posing an exchange of prisoners. He afterwards 
earned a name of perpetual infamy, by placing him- 
self at the head of those thieving and lawless barbar- 
ians known by the name of Cow Boys, that infested 
the neutral district between the lines of the two 
armies. The novelist Cooper has done full justice to 
the vile character of those uncivilized creatures, who 
lived by preying even on their own friends and rela- 
tives, in his novel entitled " The Spy." They formed 
a class of men, the like of whom it would be impos- 
sible to find anywhere else in all our history as a 
country.* 

* In some cases Putnam summarily checked these depre- 
dations by retaliation in kind. His scouts burned resi- 
dences of Tories, some of these being valuable mansions. 
Thus applying to the practice of incendiarism the rule that 
worked both ways, he succeeded in bringing such ruflBan 
methods into disrepute. 



CHAPTEE XII. 

PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURT. 

In the middle of December, Gen. Putnam went 
into winter quarters in the Highlands. The work to 
which he was now to give his attention, was the 
perfection of the defences of the river. It was early 
in the month of January, 1778, when a party, among 
whom were Governor George Clinton and Colonel 
Radiere, a French engineer, made an actual survey 
of the region, for the purpose of deciding the best 
point at which a strong fortification should be erected. 
West Point was finally decided on, though not with- 
out the opposition of Radiere, and after an examina- 
tion of the place by a committee of the ISTew York 
Legislature, The French engineer displayed consid- 
erable petulance at the final decision, and it was not 
long before he gave place to the celebrated Polish 
exile Kosciusko ; when the plans were carried forward 
with energy and rapidity. To Gen. Putnam alone 
his early friend and biographer. Col. Humphreys, 
awards the credit of this most sagacious selection. 
General Parsons was sent across the river to break 

235 



S36 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ground when the snow lay two feet deep. Consider- 
ing how poorly fed and clad the soldiers were at this 
time, how pinching was the cold, and what a miser- 
able pittance was doled out to them from time to 
time for their services, it seems truly wonderful what 
kept them together at all, much more, what motive 
could be strong enough to excite their energies in 
such an undertaking at such an inclement season. 
Putnam's own description of the condition of his 
men, in one of his letters to "Washington, is well worth 
quoting from : " Dublois' regiment is unfit to be or- 
dered on duty, there being not one blanket in the 
regiment. Very few have either a shoe or a shirt, 
and most of them have neither stockings, breeches, 
nor overalls. Several companies of enlisted artificers 
are in the same situation, and unable to work in the 
field." This was the same long and dreary winter 
which Washington passed with his shoeless and al- 
most starving army at Valley Forge. It was, in 
truth, the darkest period in our Kevolutionary his- 
tory. Washington wrote to Congress that he had 
with him at Valley Forge " no less than two thousand 
eight hundred and ninety-eight men in camp unfit 
for duty, because they were barefoot and otherwise 
naked." 

In the month of ^November previous, Congress had 
directed that the loss of the Forts Clinton and Mont- 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 237 

gomery should be duly investigated by a court of 
inquiry, which was composed of three of the leading 
officers of the army.* Putnam had gone home to 
Connecticut, about the middle of February, to take 
care of his private affairs, which sadly needed his 
personal attention; but as soon as he returned the 
investigation took place. It is a very common 
method, according to strict military discipline, of 
getting at the real facts of a great mistake or mis- 
fortune, or of a piece of misconduct on the part of a 
general officer; but nothing in the present case was 
charged against Gen. Putnam by the court, nor 
against any one else concerned. Of course, while the 
investigation was going on. Gen. Putnam was deposed 
from his command, as Avas customary and proper ; 
and that command he was not permitted again to 
resume. The court found that the two forts were 
lost on account of a lack of men, and not from any 
fault of the commanders. Washington sent to Put- 
nam, upon this, directions to return once more to Con- 
necticut, and hurry forward the fresh troops which 
that State proposed to raise for the coming campaign, 
— that of the year 1778. 

The news came about the first of May, that France 
had formed an alliance with the United States, and 
Washington and all the rest began to feel greatly 

* These were McDougall, Huntington, and Wigglesworth, 



238 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

encouraged. He even thought that the campaign of 
that year would terminate the struggle altogether. 
He wrote on to Putnam, " I hope that the fair, and, I 
may say, certain^ prospect of success will not induce 
us to relax." 

Directly after the battle of Monmouth, Gen. Put- 
nam left Connecticut to take command of the right 
wing of the army.* ISTothing had yet been accom- 
plished, with the exception of this single brilliant 

* Among the people of New York there had been for 
some time a growing dissatisfaction with Putnam, and 
this was not removed by the favorable verdict of the, 
court-martial. Nor did Washington recover entire confi- 
dence in him after the disobedience of the orders given 
through Hamilton, as narrated above. Putnam, after the 
death of his wife, asked for permission to return to his 
home in order to settle up some matters, and Washington 
consented, regarding this as a convenient method of solv- 
ing an embarrassing situation. Putnam was ordered to 
raise recruits for the army in Connecticut. When this 
work was finished, he was impatient to be assigned to 
active duty. He wrote in a complaining tone to Congress, 
that " to be posted here as a public spectator for every ill- 
minded person to make their remarks upon, I think is 
very poor encouragement for any person to venture their 
lives and fortunes in the service." 

The battle of Monmouth was fought June 18, 1778. This 
resulted in a brilliant victory, the fruits of which were 
lost by the disobedience of General Lee, who ranked next 
to Washington. Lee was court-martialed and dismissed 
from the service. Thus a suitable opening was found for 
Putnam, and thus it came that he was appointed to suc- 
ceed Lee. He probably never knew to what extent he was, 
for the time, a white elephant on Washington's hands, 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 239 

action, and the summer wore away with a series of 
aimless marches this way and that, which ahnost wore 
out what patience remained to the army. The Brit- 
ish at length — in September — gave the American 
Commander the idea that they were about to em- 
bark from IsTew York on an expedition to Boston. 
As France had by that time openly taken sides with 
us, a large French fleet lay near Boston and along 
the coast, which it was thought Sir Henry Clinton was 
eager to attack. The entire eastern army was there- 
fore so disposed as to be ready to go to the immediate 
aid of the East, in case of an invasion, and also to 
hold and defend the important posts already in their 
hands, in and around the Highlands. Putnam was 
put in command of two brigades not far from West 
Point, while Generals McDougall and Gates were sta- 
tioned at Danbury, to protect the line of country 
bordering on Long Island Sound. Two months 
passed by, and still nothing was done. The army was 
therefore ordered into winter quarters early in the 
month of November. 

General Putnam was ordered, this winter, to quar- 
ter with his command near Danbury. He had three 
brigades under him, made up of troops from Connec- 
ticut and New Hampshire, Hazen's corps of infantry, 
and Sheldon's corps of cavalry. In this position he 
was ready at hand to assist either in the defences of 



240 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

the Highlands, or to repel any assaults that might 
be offered by parties of the enemy upon the magazines 
along the Connecticut river, or the dwellings and 
stores on the line of the Soimd shore. 

The troops were but poorly paid at this time, and 
there w^as a great deal of complaint amongst them. 
!Nor was it Avithout reason. They saw the day of 
payment no nearer at hand than it had ever been. 
They were put off, and put off, with promises contin- 
ually. It was cold weather, pinching and bitter ; and 
poorly clad and ill fed as they were, their prospects 
brightening at no turn, it is nothing to wonder at that 
the}'- should begin to feel discouraged. The first evi- 
dence which Gen. Putnam had of the existence of such 
a feeling, was on finding that insubordination was act- 
ually beginning to manifest itself. The old General 
himself quartered at a farm house in Reading, but 
a short distance from Danbury, and he was there 
when the news of the outbreak first reached him. 

The General Assembly of Connecticut was in ses- 
sion at the time, in Hartford; and the troops had, 
two brigades of them, resolved to form in military 
line and march to Hartford to demand the money 
which they began to think was wrongfully kept back 
from them. These two brigades were Connecticut 
troops, and had a perfect right to demand their pay 
from the legislature of that State. The other troops 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 241 

did not stand in the same relation to the legisla- 
ture. When word was brought to Gen, Putnam of 
the breaking out of the trouble, one brigade was then 
under arms and all ready to proceed to Hartford. 
He lost no time in making up his mind what to do, 
as he never did; but instantly springing upon his 
horse, he galloped away to the scene of the diffi- 
culties. Riding up to the head of the column, 
he at once appealed to their respect and affection for 
their veteran commander, and harangued them in a 
loud voice and with a great deal of feeling. Said 
he to them, while he still sat on his horse, — " My 
brave lads, whither are you going? Do you intend 
to desert your officers, and to invite the enemy to 
follow you into the country ? In whose cause have 
you been fighting and suffering so long? Is it not 
your own ? Have you no property ? no parents ? no 
wives ? no children ? You have thus far behaved like 
men ; the world is full of your praises ; and posterity 
will stand astonished at your deeds : — ^but not if you 
spoil it all at last. Don't you consider how much 
the country is distressed by the war, and that your 
officers have not been any better paid than yourselves ? 
But we all expect better times, and then the country 
will do us ample justice. Let us all stand by one 
another, then, and fight it out like brave soldiers! 



16 



242 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Think what a shame it would be for Connecticut men 
to run away from their officers ! " 

An appeal like this, coming from the man they 
all loved and respected so much, could not go without 
its effect. The dissatisfied troops softened in a mo- 
ment, and testified to their suddenly changed feel- 
ings by offering the customary military salute as their 
General rode slowly down the line; they presented 
arms, and the drum began again to beat. The Brig- 
ade Major then gave the order to shoulder arms, 
which they promptly obeyed ; and then marched away 
to their parade ground and stacked their arms with- 
out the least show of further dissatisfaction. The 
rough but honest old soldier who was at their head, 
exerted such a strong and immediate influence over 
them, that they were convinced that he was in the 
right, and they were altogether in the wrong. 

One soldier only, who was engaged in the mutiny, 
persisted in his insubordination, and it was found 
necessary to confine him in the guard-house. During 
the night he attempted to make his escape, but he 
was shot dead by the sentinel, who had himself been 
concerned in the mutiny of the day before. A couple 
of soldiers were also executed on Gallows Hill, about 
a mile from the head-quarters of Putnam ; one was 
shot for desertion, and one was hung for being taken 
as a spy. The latter was a Tory. He was compelled 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 243 

to ascend a ladder to a height of some twenty feet, 
with the rope around his neck, and then told to jump 
off. This he refused to do. The ladder had to be 
turned over by those below, so as to throw him off 
and leave him swinging in the air. The other — the 
deserter — was a mere ^'Duth, not more than seventeen 
years old; and it is related that terrible work was 
made at his execution. 

The enemy, this winter, under the well known Gov- 
ernor Tryon, made a descent upon the to\\Tis and 
villages along the Sound, carrying their incursions 
also as far into the interior as they judged it prudent 
to go. They laid waste and destroyed wherever they 
went. They set fire to public buildings and private 
dwellings with perfect impunity, and witnessed the 
devastations they created with evident satisfaction. 

Tryon marched with a detachment of fifteen hun- 
dred men from Kingsbridge over to Horseneck, or 
what is now known as West Greenwich. This place 
was so called, because it was a tongue or neck of land, 
running out into the Sound ; and upon it used to feed 
large quantities of horses, in the summer season. 
Gen. Putnam was there at Horseneck himself, with 
a small force of only a hundred and fifty men to 
oppose the advancing enemy. He was stationed on 
the brow of a steep hill, and had but two iron 
cannon with him, but without drag-ropes or horses. 



244 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

He determined, however, to show to the enemy that 
he would not run as long as there was a chance to 
harass them, or do them any mischief.* 

The field-pieces were loaded and fired several times 
at them, as they came up, performing considerable 
execution. Resolved to put a stop to such a proceed- 
ing at once, the British General ordered a party of 
dragoons, supported by the infantry, to charge upon 
the cause of the mischief. Seeing what they were 
determined to do, and feeling certain that there was 
no use in trying to oppose his little handful of men 
to the large body of the enemy at hand, Gen. Putnam 
told his soldiers to retreat at the top of their speed 
into a swamp near by, where cavalry could not enter 
to molest them. He then waited himself till the men 
had all got off safely, and when the dragoons had 
come almost within a sword's length of him in their 
impetuous chase, he took a mad plunge down the 
precipice ; while their horses recoiled, and the riders 
looked on with a feeling of astonishment that almost 

* General Tryon certainly succeeded in surprising Put- 
nam. There are varying accounts as to where and how 
Putnam received the first intimation of the presence of 
the enemy, but all agree that he was taken suddenly and 
unawares. One story has it that he was in the act of 
shaving when he saw In the looking glass the reflection 
of the British red coats. Certain it is that he did not stop 
for appearances. His own command numbered but one 
hundred and fifty, while Tryon had fifteen hundred men. 



f" \i^ 


«^-. #"M Ifeft^k ^ 


.'K'/ -mi 




^BPi^i^ii^i^: 

















-^-^^ 







Putnam taking his mad plunge down the precipice to escape the British. 
Page 244. Life of Israel Putnam. 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 245 

amounted to horror. They dared not continue the 
pursuit, so fearfully precipitous was the descent over 
the rocks and stones. It was a feat of reckless daring, 
especially for a man well along in years, that was 
quite worthy of one, who, in his younger days, went 
down alone into a cave after a hunted wolf at mid- 
night.* 

The road led round the hill ; but he was far beyond 
their reach before they could recover themselves suf- 
ficiently to set out after him by that way. They 
hastily sent a volley of bullets in pursuit of him, as 

* An anonymous writer in The Outlook, July 14, 1900, 
gives the story of that ride as he heard it from the four 
sisters who, as little girls, remembered it with great vivid- 
ness and in their old age were fond of narrating it to 
succeeding generations: 

" On that day in February, 1778, a busy mother in a 
typical New England farm-house, while in her milk-room, 
heard the rapid beat of horse hoofs coming down the road, 
or, to use a colloquialism, ' across the plain.' So fast was 
the horse coming that the mother hastened round the house 
to see where her little daughters were. The hatless horse- 
man drew his horse up so suddenly in front of the house 
as to pull him back on his haunches, exclaiming at the 
moment, ' For God's sake, take your children in. The 
damned British are upon us.' And like a vision horse and 
rider were out of sight. 

'^ These four sisters all agree that the General was with- 
out a hat when he spoke to their mother, and they all 
remembered his long hair blowing about his round, kindly 
face; they felt the spirit of friendliness that led him to 
pause and warn their mother of the danger close upon 
her, and to them he seemed like a personal friend." 



24:6 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

he plunged do^vTi the rocky steep; one of them went 
through his hat, but not a hair of his head was in- 
jured. There were from seventy-five to one hundred 
rude stone steps laid on this declivity, to assist the 
people from below in climbing the hill to the ordinary 
services on Sunday, at the church on the brow of 
the same. Putnam's horse took him in a zigzag di- 
rection down these steps, and landed him safely in 
the plain. A man who stood not far from the old 
General, just as he wheeled his horse and made the 
reckless plunge, said that he was cursing the British 
terribly. 

He scoured the road at the top of his speed, and 
reached Stamford, a town about five miles distant, in 
a very short time. He then collected the few militia 
who were posted there, and, being joined also by some 
of his own men who had just escaped, turned back 
to pursue and harass the enemy. The latter had 
by this time succeeded in committing many acts of 
destruction, and were even then on their retreat to 
Eye. Putnam hung upon their rear, and succeeded 
in taking thirty-eight prisoners, and a wagon-load 
of ammunition and plunder which they were carry- 
ing off, and which he afterwards restored to their 
rightful owners. On the next day, he sent the pris- 
oners all back to the British lines, under an escort, 
for the purpose of exchanging them with American 



PUTNAM AT WEST POINT AND DANBURY. 247 

prisoners. Gov. Tryon was so much pleased with his 

humanity and generosity, that he sent him back a suit 

of new clothes, including a hat to take the place of the 

one which had been perforated with the bullet. 

As the Spring opened, the army moved up into 

the Highlands again, concentrating itself there on 

account of the demonstrations of Sir Henry Clinton. 

It was plainly the intention of the latter to possess 

himself of West Point and the river. Gen. Putnam 

held command at the Clove, on the west side of the 

river. The British ascended in their vessels, and 

captured Stony Point; and on the 15th of July it was 

recaptured again by that daring spirit who led on 

a " forlorn hope " in the darkness and storm of the 

night, Anthony Wayne, or " Mad Anthony " — as he 

was called by the army.* But the Americans had to 

abandon it finally, and afterwards the British aban- 

* " Wayne was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 
in 1745. He received a good education for the time, and 
became a land-surveyor. During the troublous times of 
1774 and 1775, Wayne devoted himself to drilling military 
companies in his own county. He entered the army as 
colonel in 1776, and distinguished himself in many actions. 
His most notable exploit, perhaps, was the storming of 
Stony Point on the Hudson. This formidable work he 
carried at midnight by a bayonet-charge, the soldiers' guns 
being empty. He afterward handled a small force in Geor- 
gia in such a way as to hold in check a much larger 
body of British troops. It was his careful organization, 
and bold execution of various enterprises during the Rev- 
olution which caused his selection by Washington to T^ 



^8 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

doned it still again. Washington removed his head- 
quarters to West Point, late in July, and Putnam 
took his post at Buttermilk Falls, some two miles be- 
low. The season was passed chiefly in strengthening 
the defences of this famous post, to which Putnam 
was no small contributor. The year went by without 
a single action of any greater importance than that 
renowned one of Wayne against the fortress of Stony 
Point. 

trieve the fortunes of the Indian war after St. Clair's 
defeat." — Edward Eggleston. 

Wayne led the expedition against the Indians in 1794. 
They called him The-Chief-Who-Never-Sleeps. The com- 
mon nickname, " Mad Anthony Wayne," was given him on 
account of his great courage and valor during the war 
of the Revolution, but it must not be inferred that he 
lacked prudence. It was this quality which won from 
the Indians the name quoted above, as well as that of 
The-Black-Snake, which they also called him. He died in 
1796. 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

HIS LAST DAYS. 

Eaely in December, the American army went into 
winter quarters at Morristown. There was no ex- 
pedition on foot just then by the enemy, which re- 
quired them to be late in the field. They had occu- 
pied themselves chiefly in destructive excursions into 
the country, burning and laying waste wherever they 
went. Washington himself spoke of their operations, 
in a letter to Lafayette, as amounting to little more 
than burning defenceless towns within reach of their 
own shipping, " where little else was, or could be 
opposed to them, than the cries of distressed women 
and helpless children." 

Pretty soon after going into winter quarters, Gen. 
Putnam left the camp for an absence of a few weeks 
to visit his family in Connecticut. Towards the last 
of the month he started on his return, taking Hart- 
ford in his route, as usual. Pie had travelled on the 
road to Hartford, however, but a few miles, when he 
was greatly surprised to find that a sensation of 
numbness was creeping over his right arm and leg. 
Unwilling to think that it could proceed from any 
other cause than the cold, he made strenuous exer- 
tions to shake it off; but he soon found that it was 

249 



250 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

impossible for him to deceive himself. The numb- 
ness increased, until it had got strong hold upon the 
limbs and one side of his person. He was obliged 
to be removed to the house of a friend, and even then 
he fought with all the native vigor of his will against 
the unpleasant truth that was forcing itself upon his 
mind. But it was to no purpose. The old gentle- 
man found he had been visited with a severe shock 
of paralysis, and it was useless to try to deny it any 
longer. 

Henceforward, he must relinquish his active con- 
nection with the war of the American Revolution. 
It was a difficult matter for him to feel resigned to 
inactivity, after having thrown himself with such 
ardor into the cause of his country ; but he used his 
stock of philosophy, and, as he always did in times 
of trial and difficulty, resolved to make the best of it. 
For the rest of his days, therefore, he must consent, 
as it were, to lie on the shelf. He must hear the 
roar of the cannon, but take no part in the battle. 
It was a stern fatality, and one well calculated to 
make the soul of any hero feel impatient. 

For more than eleven years he was consigned to the 
retirement and quiet of his farm-life in Pomfret, 
at the expiration of which tiine his days drew to an 
end. He had not entirely lost the use of his limbs, 
yet their strength and vigor was so seriously im- 



HIS LAST DAYS. 251 

paired as to put physical labor out of the question. 
He did not relax any of his early interest in the 
details of farming, but, with his sons, carried on his 
agricultural labors with his usual success. There was 
one time, — about six months after his attack of par- 
alysis, — when he entertained the strongest hopes of 
being able to rejoin the army ; and a letter from Gen. 
Washington in reply to one of his own upon this 
subject, is to be seen now. But these hopes all proved 
to be futile and vain.* 

'No man was a better companion than Israel Put- 
nam, even after his misfortune from the assault of 
disease. He was the life of every social circle of 

* These letters are here given in full : 

PoMFRET, 29 May, 1780. 

" Deab Sir, — I cannot forbear informing your Excellency, 
by the return of Major Humphreys to camp, of the state 
of my health from the first of my illness to the present 
time. After I was prevented from coming on to the army 
by a stroke of the paralytic kind, which deprived me, in 
a great measure, of the use of my right leg and arm, I 
retired to my plantation and have been gradually growing 
better ever since. I have now so far gained the use of 
my limbs, especially of my leg, as to be able to walk with 
very little impediment, and to ride on horseback tolera- 
bly well. In other respects I am in perfect health, and 
enjoy the comforts and pleasures of life with as good relish 
as most of my neighbors. 

" Although I should not be able to resume a command 
in the army, I propose to myself tbe happiness of making 
a visit, and seeing my friends there some time in the 
course of the campaign. And, however incapable I may 



252 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

which he formed a part, and as popular with all his 
friends as any man could reasonably wish to be con- 
sidered. He loved his joke as well as anybody; and 
lost few opportunities of having it, even at the ex- 
pense of his best friend. He was nowise indifferent 
to the pleasures of the table, but could always tell a 
good piece of meat, from the first taste of it. One 
of his descendants told the writer that " he could 

be of serving my country, to my latest hour my wishes 
and prayers will always be most ardent and sincere for 
its happiness and freedom. As a principal instrument in 
the hand of Providence for effecting this, may Heaven 
long preserve your Excellency's most important and valu- 
able life. 

" Not being able to hold the pen in my own hand, I 
am obliged to make use of another to express with how 
much regard and esteem, I am, your Excellency's 
" Most obedient and very humble servant, 

" Israel Putnam." 
" P. S. I am making a great effort to use my hand to 
make the initials of my name for the first time. 

" I. P." 
Head-Qcjarters, 5 July, 1780, 
" Dear Sir, — I am very happy to learn from your letter 
of the 29th, handed me by Major Humphreys, that the pres- 
ent state of your health is so flattering, and that it prom- 
ises you the prospect of being in a condition to make a 
visit to your old associates some time this campaign. I 
wish it were in my power to congratulate you on a complete 
recovery. I should feel a sincere satisfaction in such an 
event, and I hope for it heartily, with the rest of your 
friends in this quarter. 

" I am, dear Sir, etc., 

" G. Washi::tqton." 



HIS LAST DAYS. 253 

play the knife and fork as briskly as a drummer 
could his drumsticks." In all respects, Israel Put- 
nam was a hearty man. It was this very quality that 
made him so sincere, so honest, so devoted, and so 
brave. Such a man could have no half-way opinions ; 
and what he honestly thought, that he never hesitated 
to speak boldly out. To the very last day of his 
existence, he retained the possession of all these 
marked traits of character, together with the custom- 
ary brightness and vigor of his mental faculties. He 
luade friends wherever he went ; and he understood 
the secret — if it is a secret — of keeping them. The 
same habits of activity that had characterized him 
from his youth up, assisted to preserve his health as 
long as it was preserved to him ; and only a few weeks 
before the final summons came to call him away, he 
performed a journey on horseback to Dan vers, his 
birthplace, a distance of a hundred miles. But he 
travelled slowly, resting as often as was necessary 
along the road. 

Immediately upon the conclusion of the Treaty of 
Peace between the United States and Great Britain, 
by the terms of which the former were declared to be 
free and independent States, Washington addressed 
a letter to the war-worn hero in his retirement, in 
which he said that " among the many worthy and 
meritorious officers with whom he had had the happi- 



254: LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

ness to be connected in service through the war, and 
from whose cheerful assistance and advice he 
had received much support and confidence, the 
name of a Putnam is not forgotten; nor will be, but 
wdth that stroke of time which shall obliterate from 
mj mind the remembrance of all those toils and 
fatigues through which we have struggled, for the 
preservation and establishment of the Rights, Liber- 
ties, and Independence of our Country." 

Many anecdotes are related of Gen. Putnam, some 
of which have a foundation in truth, while more, 
probably, take their rise only in the imaginations of 
those who gave them the first start in the world. 
Among them all, however, there is one which is quite 
good enough, old as it may be to many, to reproduce 
in this biography. A certain English ofiicer, who was 
a prisoner on his parole, or word of honor, took mor- 
tal offence at some sharp remarks in which the Gen- 
eral had indulged respecting the British, and chal- 
lenged him, thinking this the easiest way to take sat- 
isfaction and correct the General's candid opinion at 
the same time. Putnam accepted his braggart chal- 
lenge without any hesitation, and proposed to meet 
him in the following way: — On the next morning, 
they were both to be at a certain place by a specified 
hour, and Putnam, who was the challenged party, and 
of course had choice of them, was to provide the weap- 




Putnam's metliod of fighting a duel with an English officer. — Page 254. 

Life of Israel Putnam. 



HIS LAST DAYS. 255 

ons. When the English officer arrived at the place 
agreed upon, he found Putnam seated on a bench, 
on which stood close beside him a keg of what was, 
to appearance, powder. A hole was bored into the 
head, and a match had been thrust into the hole, 
all ready to be lighted, Putnam removed his pipe 
from his mouth, and told the Englishman to sit down 
on the bench on the other side of the keg. As soon 
as the latter had complied, Putnam lit the match bj 
his pipe, and began to smoke again with as much 
unconcern as if there was no possible danger. His 
opponent sat and watched the burning of the match 
as long as he could, and then began to grow nervous. 
The moment the fire came near to the few grains of 
powder that lay scattered about on the head of the 
barrel, the officer sprang up in great haste and ran off 
at the top of his speed ! 

" You are just as brave a man as I thought you 
was ! " exclaimed the triumphant Putnam. " This is 
only a keg of onions, with a little powder sprinkled 
over its head, to try your pluck! I see you don't 
like the smell ! " * 

He had the laugh against the Englishman, who 
never forgave him for the mock test to w^hich he thus 
publicly put his personal courage. 

* The sense of humor, which enables a person who is 
conscientiously opposed to the practice of dueling, to turn 
it into a joke and laugh it out of court, is a valuable trait. 



256 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

It is not necessary, after giving this connected 
narrative of the life and services of a man like Israel 
Putnam, to set about the task of summing up those 
qualities of his character which every reader has ob- 
served for himself in passing along. It affords one 
sincere pleasure, however, to know that his early 
habits of industry and thrift had placed him beyond 
the reach of want in his old age, which unhappily 
the reach of want in his old age, which unhappily 
could not be said of many others of that band of 
patriots to whose sacrifices we owe what we enjoy so 

The reader will recall the fact that Abraham Lincoln was 
once, for some real or fancied slight, challenged to a duel 
by James Shields. Lincoln was of exceptionally large phy- 
sique and bubbled over with good nature, while Shields 
was a small man and noted for his explosive temper. Lin- 
coln, having the choice of weapons, emphasized the physi- 
cal disparity by choosing cavalry swords of the largest 
size. Shields did not perceive the humor of this, and 
both parties repaired to the "bloody sands" where, how- 
ever, the disagreement was amicably settled. The details 
of the settlement were not divulged. Shields afterwards 
became a general in the United States army, where he ren- 
dered brave and efficient service, and when the war was 
over he was elected several times, from different States, 
to the United States Senate. Had Lincoln fought the duel 
in earnest, it is probable that the country would have 
lost the services of at least one patriot. 

By way of contrast, the country has not forgotten the 
duel in which Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton to 
death. The latter was conscientiously opposed to dueling, 
but he dared not face public opinion by declining. Put- 
nam's method of dealing with the difficult subject was far 
better. 



HIS LAST DAYS. 257 

freely to-day. He had as pleasant a home as a man 
could desire ; his large family, already grown up and 
settled around him, found the same happiness in his 
society that he did in theirs; and, blessed in all 
things, at peace with the world, and with a soul full 
of tranquillity, he came to his end at last like a 
shock of corn that is ripe in its season. 

Two days before his death, he was violently at- 
tacked with an inflammatory disorder, which obsti- 
nately refused to yield to the ordinary remedies of 
medicine; and on the 19th day of May, in the year 
1Y90, he passed away peacefully and quietly, having 
reached the seventy-third year of an honorable age. 
His neighbors bore him to the grave with every man- 
ifestation of sincere sorrow for his loss ; and the news 
of his death was received with feelings of unmingled 
grief all over the country. Thus did he live for seven 
full years to witness and participate in the happi- 
ness of the country whose independence he had as- 
sisted to achieve, and it gave him lasting joy to know 
that the part he had taken in the struggle was not a 
hesitating or an inconsiderable one. Dr. Whitney, 
his old pastor, preached a discourse appropriate to 
his death, from which the following paragraph is an 
interesting extract : 

" He was eminently a person of public spirit, an 
unshaken friend of liberty, and was proof against 



258 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

attempts to induce him to betray and desert his coun- 
try. The baits to do so were rejected with the utmost 
abhorrence. He was of a kind, benevolent disposi- 
tion ; pitiful to the distressed, charitable to the needy, 
and ready to assist all who wanted his help. In his 
family he was the tender, affectionate husband, the 
provident father, an example of industry and close 
application to business. He was a constant attendant 
upon the public worship of God, from his youth up. 
He brought his family with him, when he came to 
worship the Lord. He was not ashamed of family 
religion. His house was a house of prayer. For 
many years, he was a professor of religion. In the 
last years of his life, he often expressed a great re- 
gard for God, and the things of God. There is one, 
at least, to whom he freely disclosed the workings of 
his mind ; his conviction of sin ; his grief for it ; 
his dependence on God, through the Redeemer, for 
pardon; and his hope of a happy future existence, 
whenever his strength and heart should fail him. 
This one makes mention of these things, for the satis- 
faction and comfort of his children and friends ; and 
can add, that, being with the General a little before 
he died, he asked him whether his hope of future 
happiness, as formerly expressed, now attended him. 
His answer was in the affirmative ; with a declaration 



HIS LAST DAYS. 259 

of bis resignation to the will of God, and Ms willing- 
ness even then to die." 

He left a large family, whose descendants live to 
honor the name of their ancestor in all parts of our 
common country. The various relics which bring up 
bis personal connection with the French and Indian, 
and the Revolutionary War, are preserved with 
sacred solicitude. Among these are the pistols of 
Major Pitcairn, with one of which the latter opened 
the Eevolution on Lexington Green. 

The dust of the old Hero lies in the little burying- 
ground of the village of Brooklyn, — ^which village 
was once a part of Pomfret, — and there mingles 
peacefully with the soil. The tomb, — a brick 
structure, upon which rests a weather-browned slab, 
— is fast going to decay, and sacrilegious hands have 
chipped off pieces of the marble slab to carry away 
as trifling memorials. The State of Connecticut, 
however, has pledged herself to aid generously in the 
erection of a suitable monument, to be placed upon 
the open green of the village, where all who pass 
may be reminded of the man whose labors and sacri- 
fices brought them so priceless a legacy.* Upon the 

* The State has handsomely redeemed this pledge, and 
to-day a fine equestrian statue, representing the general 
as urging his men forward, apparently in battle, stands 
on the Green in the town of Brooklyn. Another statue, 
representing Putnam in the military costume of Revolu- 



260 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

present fast-fading slab that crowns the dilapidated 
vault,* is to be traced the following feeling and 
highly appropriate inscription, from the pen of his 
friend and companion in the army, Dr. Dwight, Pres- 
ident of Yale College : 

SACRED BE THIS MONUMEKT, 

to the memory 

of 

Israel Putnam, Esquire, 

Senior Major-General in the armies 

of 

the United States of America, 

who 

was born at Salem, 

in the Province of Massachusetts, 

on the 7th day of January, 

A. D. 1718, 

and died 

on the twenty-ninth day of May, 

A. D. 1790. 



PASSENGER, 

if thou art a soldier, 

drop a tear over the dust of a Hero, 

who 

ever attentive 

to the lives and happiness of his men. 



tionary times, adorns the beautiful Bushnell Park, of the 
city of Hartford. It was erected by the munificence of a 
private citizen. 

* A century of New England storms and sunshine wore 
upon that plain slab and threatened to destroy the inter- 
esting inscription. Accordingly the slab was reverently 
removed to Hartford, where it is now kept in the corridor 
of the Capitol, accessible to all comers. 



HIS LAST DAYS. 261 

dared to lead 

where any dared to follow; 

if a Patriot, 

remember the distinguished and gallant services 

rendered thy country 

by the Patriot who sleeps beneath this marble; 

if thou art honest, generous and worthy, 

render a cheerful tribute of respect 

to a man, 

whose generosity was singular, 

whose honesty was proverbial; 

who 

raised himself to universal esteem, 

and offices of eminent distinction, 

by personal worth 

and a 

useful life. 

The brave old man, avIio never knew tlie meaning 
of fear, sleeps quietly in this humble grave. A de- 
vious path has been worn among the hillocks of the 
little yard, by the feet of those who have come, year 
after year, to look upon his last resting place. On the 
still summer afternoons, the crickets chirp mourn- 
fully in the long wild grass, and the southerly breeze 
wails in the belt of pines that neighbor upon the 
spot. The associations are all of a thoughtful sad- 
ness. But it is good for one to visit the graves of 
the heroes who have departed, where he may kindle 
anew that sentiment of patriotism, without which he 
can become neither an estimable citizen nor a noble 
man. 

THE END. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



CONCLUSION". 



It may be of some interest to the reader to give, 
in concluding this work, a summary of what has been 
learned of the subject of the biography, and particu- 
larly an estimate of his character. His physical 
aspect is described by L. Grosvenor, one of his de- 
scendants, in the following words: — 

" Putnam, in personal appearance, was of medium 
height, of a strong, athletic figure, and in the time of 
the revolutionary war, rather fleshy, weighing 200 
lbs. His hair was dark, his eyes light blue, his com- 
plexion a florid Saxon, and his broad, good-humored 
face, marked with deep scars, received in his encoun- 
ters with the French and Indians. A portrait of 
him, taken in his younger days, when he was a 
provincial major, gives a rather slim but muscular 
figure, drest in scarlet coat and breeches and a 
light blue vest, with buff gloves and black cravat. 
He is described by those now living, who frequently 
saw him in his old age, as being very large around 

262 



CONCLUSION. 263 

the chest, showing — what we should expect from his 
habits — a great amoimt of sanguine vital tempera- 
ment. Even after his final return from the wars, 
when one side of him was so paralyzed that his right 
arm clung close and useless to his side, and he had 
to be assisted to mount his horse, he rode almost every- 
day on horseback, ' sitting up as straight as a boy.' " 
In the sterling qualities of intellect, Putnam stood 
high ; but his scholastic achievements were slight, as 
appears in his letters. Most of these were dictated, 
and therefore have not the peculiar and unique in- 
terest which attaches to the literal products of his own 
pen. The wonder is that one who had so little school- 
ing as he, was able to express his meaning sufficiently 
clearly in Avriting, even with the aid of an aman- 
uensis. The fact is, however, that his letters are 
remarkably free from ambiguity, when all the cir- 
cumstances are duly considered. But when, in any 
exigency, he took his pen in his own hand, the results 
were astonishing. The following letter, which may 
be found in the excellent biography by William Far- 
rand Livingston, will give an excellent idea of our 
hero's deficiency in " book learning." It is addressed 
to General Washington : 

"PiCKSKiLL, ye 24 Sept., 1118. 
" Dear Ginrol, — Larst night I received a Leator 



264 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

from Collo Spencor informing me that the Enimy 
had landed at the English Naborwhood and ware on 
thar March to hackensack, I immedat called the 
ginrol ofesors togatlier to consult wliat was beast to 
be don it was concluded to Exammin the mens gons 
and Cartridges & & and to have them ready for a 
March at the shortest notis when it should be thought 
beast or on receaving your Orders. I waited som 
time for further Intelleganc but hearing non I rod 
dowTi to Kings fary and on my way met 4 men with 
thar horses loded with bagig going back into the 
contry which said thay cam from within 2 milds 
of tarytown who said the Enimy had com out 
of Xew York in 3 larg Colloms won by the way of 
Maranack and won by taritown and won had gon into 
the jarsys Just as I had got to the fary I meat won 
Capt. Jonston with a leator from Collo Hay which 
informed me that the Enemy had got as fur as 
Sovalingboro church and was incamped thare and it 
was said thay war waiteng for a wind to bring up the 
ships: the Enimy are colecting all the catel sheap 
and hogs thay can in this setuation shuld be glad of 
your Excelanceys ordors what to do 
" I am Sir with the gratest Estem 

" your humbel Sarveant 

" Israel Putnam," 



CONCLUSION. 265 

Of some of General Putnam's other qualities, 
Oliver W. B. Peabody wrote as follows: — 

" His qualities as a soldier are already apparent 
[to the reader.] Under all circumstances, however 
critical, he was perfectly fearless and self-possessed, 
and full of the most active energy and resource at the 
time when they were most urgently required. No 
man could surpass him in the fiery charge, of which 
the success depends so much upon the leader ; in this 
respect he reminds the reader of Murat, the gallant 
marshal of Napoleon ; nor would the general feeling 
deny him the proud title, by which another of those 
marshals was distinguished, that of the bravest of 
the brave. At the same time, as has been already 
intimated, he was somewhat less successful in the 
more extended operations, which required the com- 
bined action of large and separate masses of men. 
Yet, when it is remembered that, wholly without mil- 
itary education and with scarcely any other, and 
simply by the force of his own energy and talent, he 
rose through all the gradations of the service to the 
station of first major-general in the army, till he 
stood second in rank to Washington alone, no better 
evidence could be given or required of his capacity 
and conduct as a soldier. Nor should it be forgotten 
that his humanity was always as conspicuous as his 
bravery, his treatment of the sick and wounded was 



266 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

such as to attract the warm attachment of his own 
soldiers, and to extort the gratitude of the enemy. 
He is certainly entitled to the praise of disinterested, 
ardent, and successful efforts in the cause of his coun- 
try ; and he will be long remembered among those who 
served her faithfully and well, at a season when she 
wanted either the ability or the inclination to reward 
their toils and sacrifices. 

" But the military reputation of General Putnam, 
high as it was, concealed no dark traits of personal 
character beneath its shadow. In all the domestic 
relations, the surest tests of habitual virtue, he was 
most exemplary; and his excellence in this respect 
deserves the more notice, as the stern discipline and 
wild adventure, in which so much of his life was 
spent, were more favorable to the growth of severer 
qualities. His disposition was frank, generous, and 
kind; in his intercourse with others, he was open, 
just, sincere, and unsuspecting; liberal in his hospi- 
tality, and of ready benevolence whenever there was 
any occasion for his charity. Those who knew him 
best were the most forward to express their admira- 
tion of his excellence. The late President Dwight, 
who was his friend, but very unlikely to sacrifice the 
claims of truth to those of personal regard, has in his 
writings more than once expressed the sentiment, 
which he has embodied in the inscription on Gen- 



CONCLUSION. 267 

eral Putnam's monument ; that he was a ' man, whose 
generosity was singular, whose honesty was proverb- 
ial; who raised himself to universal esteem, and 
offices of eminent distinction, by personal worth and 
a useful life.' Such is the language of others who 
have borne witness to his private virtues; and what 
more needs to be added, than that his moral excellence 
flowed from a religious fountain, and that the char- 
acter of a man of worth was adorned and dignified in 
him by the higher qualities of a Christian ? " 

Holliston, as quoted by Grosvenor, wrote as fol- 
lows: 

" The character of Putnam was the result of our 
peculiar structure of society, and the growth of our 
soil. A hero from his cradle, he needed not the tac- 
tics of the schools to give him discipline, nor the 
maxims of philosophy to make him brave. Like the 
ghost of Fingal, rising in the midst of its hill, and 
unveiling its features to the moon, the fame of our 
chieftain is just beginning to unfold itself in its 
colossal proportions. Already the eyes of the world 
are turned towards him. A monument will soon 
stand above his grave that will be worthy of the spot. 
Let it be made of material solid as his integrity, and 
planted deep and immovable as the love that he bore 
to his country was seated in his heart ; yet let it be 
costly and rare as the lavish gifts that the creating 



J 
268 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

hand poured so plentifully upon him. Let it be sim- 
ple and bold like his character, above all let it trans- 
mit the truth that has so long been told the pilgrims 
who visit the tomb, that ' Putnam dared to lead, 
where any dared to follow.' " 

At Putnam's funeral services Dr. Waldo, speaking 
at the grave, said : 

" Born a hero, whom nature taught and cherished 
in the lap of innumerable trials and dangers, he was 
terrible in battle. But from the amiableness of his 
heart, when carnage ceased, his humanity spread over 
the field like the refreshing breezes of a summer even- 
ing. The prisoner, the wounded, the sick, the for- 
lorn, experienced the delicate sympathy of this sol- 
diers' pillar. [Tarbox, in quoting this passage, uses 
the word " pillow."] The poor and needy, of every 
description, received the charitable bounties of this 
Christian soldier." 

We thus see that the most noticeable trait of Put- 
nam was his courage. This, joined with his fiery 
impetuosity, made him a man of mark. In the excite- 
ment of battle, he seemed to be possessed of forty 
devils, and his fury knew no bounds. It followed 
that when his own men failed him his indignation, 
being all directed against them, was simply terrific. 
It is not strange that the men feared the tongue of 
their leader, whom they also loved devotedly, quite as 



CONCLUSION. 269 

much as they feared the bullets of the foe. Coward- 
ice he could neither understand nor tolerate, and 
when he lost his self-control he poured forth a torrent 
of invective which no soldier would care to hear a 
second time. 

On the other hand, as soon as the excitement of the 
battle was over, he was a changed man: he was as 
sympathetic as a brother, as gentle as a woman: 
After the battle, none were enemies to him, he min- 
istered to friend and foe alike, and in doing so poured 
forth all the devotion of a rare soul. In time of 
peace, he was a general favorite in the community, 
by reason of his cheeriuess and his never failing good 
nature. In his person the extremes of gentleness and 
of wrath met. 

Impulsive as Putnam was, he had unusual persist- 
ence. He was always cheerful, and, no matter what 
obstacles confronted him, he never became discour- 
aged. When opposed by overwhelming numbers of 
the enemy, when apparently caught in a trap, when 
captured and subjected to slow torture, he always 
maintained his cheery optimism. Though he liked 
nothing in the world so much as a sharp battle, he 
was not deficient in caution and watchfulness. ^Vlien 
he was placed in charge of a station, all the ingenuity 
of the Connecticut Yankee was brought into requisi- 
tion to contrive means of defence. He thus had a 



270 LIFE OF GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

balance of qualities sucli as is rarely fouud in im- 
petuous men. 

Putnam earned his first reputation in the Indian 
war where he served as a partisan leader, or guerilla 
chief. Though he did excellent service in the revo- 
lutionary war as major-general, yet his greatest abili- 
ties lay in the line of guerilla warfare. With few 
well trained and dauntless men under his control, 
striking sudden and powerful blows where least ex- 
pected, he could do immense damage to a large army 
and that with comparative immunity to his own 
forces. " But," says one writer, " a large army puz- 
zled him ; it was not flexible enough in his hand, and 
he could not wield it with that ease and rapidity be 
wished." Still he was too valuable a man to be left, 
in control of only a few score or a few hundred men ; 
such a compact band would have been a means of in- 
creasing his personal honor, but it would have been 
of less value to the cause at a time when there were 
few men with military education from which it was 
possible to select generals. In spite of the lack of 
early military education, he made a record that com- 
pares favorably with that of any of his fellows, 
Washington and Lafayette alone being excepted. 

The American reader cannot cease to regret that 
the untimely stroke of paralysis laid Putnam aside so 
that he was not able to bear his part in the war until 



CONCLUSION. 271 

its triumphant conclusion. To his fiery nature this 
must have been a sore trial and a bitter disappoint- 
ment. But it is pleasant to reflect that the closing 
years of this stormy life were spent in peace, comfort, 
and contentment. Men believed in him and loved 
him. Though his body was almost helpless, his mind 
remained clear and vigorous. He lived to reap the 
reward of being honored by all his countrymen, and 
most of all by his neighbors who knew him best. The 
esteem in which he was, and still is, held by his 
countrymen is indicated by the fact that nearly thirty 
counties, towns, and villages in widely separated 
parts of this country bear his name. He was one of 
that cluster of patriots, builders of the nation, that 
make glorious that period of history which witnessed 
the birth and early growth of the United States of 
America. 



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Maria Roche. 

Children of Gibeon. W. Besant. 

Child's History of England. By 

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Clara Vaughan R. D. Blackmore. 

Cloister and the Hearth. Charles 
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Coleridge's Poems. Samuel Taylor 
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ton Irving. 

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H. W. Longfellow. 

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Cripps the Carrier. E. D. Black, 
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Daniel Deronfis. George Eliot. 

Data of £Jthic3. H. Spencer. 

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Descent of Man. Charles Darwin. 
Dick Sand. By Jules Verne. 
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Far From the Madding Crowd. By 

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French Revolution. T. Carlyle. 
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